Dubuque dad grows beard for awareness of son's condition, PANDAS - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque dad grows beard for awareness of son's condition, PANDAS and PANS

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Ask Tim Ehlinger about his noticeably coiffed, brown and white beard...you'll quickly learn it's not about the beard at all.

"Yeah, it's really getting big, the reason why I grew it is because my son has a condition called PANDAS."

The 43-year-old Dubuque father of two boys has been growing out his beard for nearly one year to raise awareness about PANDAS and PANS -- a group of auto-immune disorders his 9-year-old son, Riley has.

It was triggered by a strep infection and the symptoms mimic obsessive compulsive disorder.

"He started to say he didn't want to eat his food, he thought it was poisoned, didn't want to participate in certain  things because he was just afraid of them," said Ehlinger.

According to the organization, the PANDAS Network, research shows most cases of the disorder occur in children between the ages of four and 12 years old, but there have been outliers of that range.

It started two years ago.  Ehlinger says Riley's behavior changed suddenly over night.

"You're child who was social, very active, was doing well in school and all of a sudden you see him decline...you feel helpless.  You feel like what can I do for my child because he's kind of falling apart right now," he added.

But things are coming back together again.  With antibiotics, Riley's condition  has improved. 

"He is doing quite well,  his symptoms are well managed," said Ehlinger.

PANDAS and PANS awareness day is October 9th.

Ehlinger says he  plans on cutting off his beard at the end of the year on Riley's birthday.

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