Parents are understandably concerned about what would happen if their child got COVID-19. Babies may be considered vulnerable due to the immature immune system and also ineligible for most treatments and vaccinations available for older children and adults.
The good news is that most babies experience mild illness. Here’s what to expect if your baby tests positive.
Can I protect my baby if I have COVID-19?
If you test positive and have a newborn or infant in your home, there are some protective measures you can take. These include washing hands before providing care and wearing a mask when breastfeeding or in close contact. Current proof suggests that COVID-19 cannot be spread through breast milk.
It is still very important to continue to breastfeed (if you do at all) and there is no need to separate mother and baby.
Transmission from older siblings and other close contacts can also be reduced by vaccination. Vaccinating parents and carers will also reduce their chances of serious illness, minimizing the risks and interruptions to mother and baby.
What should I do if my baby has cold symptoms or fever?
Testing your baby is similar to testing yourself. Babies can often get PCR tests in the same places you are being tested, or you can use a rapid antigen test (RAT) on them.
If you are using a RAT it is important to check that it is for the correct age group as not all RATs can be used on children. It says on the packaging whether it is suitable. Otherwise, ask your pharmacist for the appropriate test for your child’s age.
It is also important to follow the specific instructions for the test you have purchased, as not everything will be the same.
COVID-19 is usually mild in babies
During the pandemic, children of all ages less likely to experience a serious illness compared to adults. The risk of serious illness also seems to be bearing with Omicron compared to earlier variants, although the transmission of later variants was higher.
From our clinical experience, and international research, babies with COVID-19 have usually had mild illness. The need for hospitalization or intensive care is extremely uncommon. Babies may be at higher risk if they are premature or have another underlying cause serious illness or condition† Studies describing COVID-19 in newborns show that, as with other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV, deaths are serious special†
A range of immune differences in newborns has been proposed to explain why babies usually get less severe disease† Although there is no vaccine for infants, transfer of antibodies from mothers vaccinated during pregnancy to newborns, who can provide protection.
What Symptoms Do Babies Usually Get?
Babies can show a range of symptoms when they have COVID-19 that are typical of other respiratory viruses. Until 25% of babies may have no symptoms†
Fever, stuffy nose, feeding problems and coughing are more common symptoms.
Difficulty breathing, lethargy and persistent fever can be signs of serious illness.
How do I treat it?
You can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen if he has a fever or discomfort, and nasal drops can ease congestion. If you are considering giving medication to a baby under three months of age, please consult your primary care physician.
When should I get medical advice?
Contact your doctor if your baby has any of the following symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- persistent fever
- feeding problems that affect hydration or cause less than 50% of the normal number of diapers.
It is important to note that a fever in a newborn for up to three months requires a medical assessment, regardless of whether the baby has COVID.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Especially as we enter winter, protection against other common viruses that can affect babies, such as the flu, is also important. Children older than six months can get the flu vaccine.
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