"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Ear, nose and throat problems in preschool age are linked to autism

April 26, 2023 – Very young children with ear and upper respiratory problems look like at increased risk of developing autism or showing severe autistic traits, based on a brand new study.

The study’s data comes from the British Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), also generally known as the “Children of the 90s” study.

ALSPAC has monitored the health of greater than 14,000 children whose moms lived within the Avon area, north-west of London, who were enrolled while pregnant between 1991 and 1992. The most up-to-date study of the cohort drew on data from greater than 10,000 infants who were followed during their first 4 years of life. Their moms accomplished three questionnaires between 18 and 42 months, recording the frequency of nine different signs and symptoms related to the upper respiratory tract and ear and hearing problems.

The researchers linked these with later measurements of autism spectrum disorders.

The evaluation, published within the journal BMJ openfound that a complete of 177 children (139 boys and 38 girls) had a probable diagnosis of autism, while those with autistic traits – including problems with speech coherence, social and communication problems, repetitive and abnormal behavior, and sociability – represented 10% of the sample with the very best trait scores.

However, other researchers urged caution. Asked for comment, Tim Nicholls, head of influence and research on the National Autistic Society, said: “These findings should be treated with caution. They only indicate a possible association – and we know that correlation is not the same as causation. Therefore, we suggest that no firm conclusions should be drawn from them.”

“However, medical professionals need to be aware that at least 1% of their patients are autistic, so they should be trained and prepared to support autistic people at every consultation, whether it is referral for diagnosis or for a medical problem.”

Mouth respiration and ear symptoms related to autism

Certain symptoms, including mouth respiration (continually or predominantly), snoring, picking/poking within the ears, red ears, worse hearing with a chilly, and infrequently listening, were significantly related to high scores on all 15 autistic traits tested and with diagnosed autism.

There has also been evidence of a link between pus or thick mucus discharge from the ears, particularly in cases of diagnosed autism and speech disorders.

The researchers concluded: “Very young children who present with general ear and respiratory symptoms appear to be at increased risk for a later diagnosis of autism or to have high levels of autistic traits.”

Early detection could improve quality of life

However, they cautioned that these signs and symptoms are “very common” in childhood and “most children who experience them are not later diagnosed with autism.” However, “early detection and treatment of ENT disorders can improve the quality of life of these children and may help shed light on some of the causes of autism.”

Amanda Roestorf, PhD, head of research at autism charity Autistica, said a long time of research have shown that children with autism are more likely to have more medical conditions than children without autism.

“In view of the questions raised in the literature to date, the study results provide a basis for considering treatment pathways for ENT problems in autistic children in general practice and secondary care,” said Roestorf.