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COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Babies and Children

COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Babies and Children

At least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus during the last two weeks of July, according to a new review of state-level data by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association. The increase represents a 40% surge in the nation's cumulative total of child cases.

Children of all ages can become ill with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). But most kids who are infected typically don't become as sick as adults and some might not show any symptoms at all. Know the symptoms of COVID-19 in babies and children, why children might be affected differently by COVID-19 and what you can do to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among nearly 150,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. between Feb. 12 and April 2, only about 2,500, or 1.7%, were in children. This is similar to what has been reported in other countries, such as China and Italy, that have had large outbreaks. Hospitalization rates for children have been much lower than for adults.


How are babies affected by COVID-19?

Although rare, children under age 1 (infants) are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19. This is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections.

Newborns can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 during childbirth or by exposure to sick caregivers after delivery. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends special care for newborns born to women who have confirmed or suspected COVID-19. This might include temporarily separating the mother and the newborn to decrease the risk of infecting the baby, monitoring the baby for signs of infection, and, if supplies are available, testing the newborn for COVID-19.

Children's COVID-19 symptoms

While children and adults experience similar symptoms of COVID-19, children's symptoms tend to be mild and cold-like. Most children recover within one to two weeks. Their symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 and you think he or she might have COVID-19, call your child's health care provider. Keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible, except to get medical care. If possible, have your child use a separate bedroom and bathroom from family members. Follow recommendations from the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and your government regarding quarantine and isolation measures as appropriate.

COVID-19 prevention tips

There are many steps you can take to prevent your child from getting the virus that causes COVID-19 and, if he or she does become sick, to avoid spreading it to others. The CDC and WHO recommend that you and your family:

  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue and wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Have your kids wash their hands immediately after returning home, as well as after going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Show young children how to create tiny soap bubbles by rubbing their hands together and how to get the soap between fingers and all the way to the ends of their fingers, including their thumbs and the backs of their hands. Encourage your kids to sing the entire "Happy Birthday" song twice (about 20 seconds) so they spend the time they need to get their hands clean.
  • Practice social distancing. Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms. Minimize trips outside your house. When you do go out, leave your children at home — if possible. Since people without symptoms can spread the virus, don't allow your child to have in-person playdates with children from other households — even if they are all feeling well. If your child plays outside, make sure he or she stays 6 feet away from people outside of your household. You can describe this distance to your child as about the length of a door or an adult's bicycle. Don't allow your child to play games or sports that involve shared equipment, such as a basketball, or that can't accommodate physical distancing. Postpone your child's in-person visits with older adults. Encourage your child to keep in touch with friends and loved ones through phone calls or video chats. Consider organizing virtual family meals, game nights or playdates to keep your child engaged.
  • Clean and disinfect your home. Focus on cleaning surfaces every day in common areas that are frequently touched, such as tables, doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, light switches, remotes, electronics, handles, desks, toilets and sinks. Also, clean areas that easily get dirty, such as a baby's changing table, and surfaces that your child often touches, such as his or her bed frame, craft table, toy chest and toys. Use soap and water to clean toys that your child puts in his or her mouth. Be sure to rinse off the soap and dry the toys. Wash your child's bedding and washable plush toys, as needed, in the warmest possible setting. Dry items completely. Wash your hands after handling your child's belongings. If you're caring for a baby with COVID-19, wash your hands after diaper changes or handling the baby's bedding, toys or bottles.
  • Wear cloth face masks. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public places, such as the grocery store, where it's difficult to avoid close contact with others. It's especially suggested in areas with ongoing community spread. This advice is based on data showing that people with COVID-19 can transmit the virus before realizing that they have it. If your child is age 2 or older, have him or her wear a cloth face mask when out in the community to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others. Don't place a face mask on a child younger than age 2, a child who has any breathing problems, or a child who has a condition that would prevent him or her from being able to remove the mask without help.  If your child is under the age of 2 and you do go outside, consider using a Sweet Baby Shade infant model on their stroller or car seat to protect against unwanted human contact.

In addition, keep up with your child's well visits and vaccines. This is especially important for infants and young children under age 2. Many health care providers in communities affected by COVID-19 are using strategies to separate well visits from sick visits by seeing sick children in separate areas of their offices or at different locations. If your child is due for a well visit, talk to your child's doctor about safety steps being taken. Don't let fear of getting the virus that causes COVID-19 prevent your child from getting his or her vaccines.

Following guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus can be particularly difficult for kids. Stay patient. Be a good role model and your child will be more likely to follow your lead.

Source: Mayo Clinic



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