Opening the Country, COVID19 and Down Syndrome: How to Best Protect Your Child

With the world finally opening up, many parents with children with Down syndrome are on edge.

As parents, you know your child's health is fragile. It seems that your child with Down syndrome (DS) gets sick easier, quicker, and longer than their typical peers.

Often a common cold can become just as quickly become pneumonia in kids with DS. So you're always on your guard.

And with many places opening and COVID19 reports spiking, it's more important than ever to keep your child with DS safe.

But how?

Practicing social distancing and proper hygiene is essential during these challenging times but is there more you can do to boost your child's immune system?

Is there a way to make sure that your child with DS stays as healthy as possible without resorting to increased social isolation?

Is it even safe for people with DS to go outside and mingle while the risk of COVID19 is still a possibility?

And why do people with DS seem to get so sick so often?

These ( among others) are some of the questions that you may have as a parent or caregiver of a person with DS.

Well, let's start with answering the last question first.

Why do people with DS seem to get sicker more often than others?

It comes down to the immune system.

People with DS have a weakened immune system. There are a number of different reasons why this happens to be the case but the biggest reason comes down to the effects of having an extra copy of chromosome 21 encoding for upwards of 300 genes [1].

In fact, recent research has actually classified DS as a disorder of the immune system [2] rather than just a vague genetic condition.

This means that interferons, a group of proteins usually only activated when there is a disease like a virus that the body is fighting, are activated all the time in individuals with Down syndrome.

The interferon response is only activated in typical individuals when they are fighting an infection.

So that should mean that people with DS have ultra strong immune systems right?

Sadly this is definitely not the case.

People with Down syndrome often have an overactive immune system that doesn't respond the way typical individual's immune systems respond.

Further more, people with DS have more immune system abnormalities, usually in the form of T and B cell lymphopenia which means an even more increased risk of infection [3].