Here at the Bub Hub we’ve always made it our aim to provide sensible, practical and up-to-date advice to parents and parents-to-be so they can make informed decisions when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, and raising children.
Now, more than ever before, parents need a clear voice amid the confusion. And with that in mind, we’ve consulted a range of experts to discuss the only thing many of us are thinking about at the moment — the coronavirus or COVID-19.
Here Paedicare Paediatrician’s Dr Julie Beak answers key questions to update you on the current situation and what you need to know about newborns, babies and Coronavirus.
This is a very unsettling time for all, particularly for parents who are anxious to know how Coronavirus affects their newborns and babies.
Having a baby is such a special time in your life (albeit exhausting). Despite the crisis we are facing with Coronavirus (COVID-19) I encourage you to love and enjoy your baby.
Happy parents mean a happy baby who feels secure. So smile and cuddle your baby. Creating connections with your immediate family is so important at this time.
What are the key messages for parents?
The key message for parents is something you have heard everywhere – stay home. This lessens your chance of coming in to contact with people or objects infected with Coronavirus.
Only go out to get essential items or if a family member has to go to work. When going to the shops just send one person.
If you do need to go out practice social distancing, which includes staying 1.5m away from others. Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth. Avoid shaking hands.
Practise good hygiene
This takes me to the next important message – hand hygiene. Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs. Don’t be worried if you can’t get alcohol-based hand rubs, soap and water works well. Specifically wash your hands before going out and immediately on return to your house. You should also wash your hands before and after eating.
As a part of hygiene measures cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
Clean and disinfect regularly
If you or your family have to work, consider leaving your shoes in the garage and changing clothes or arrival home. Studies have shown that coronavirus can survive for up to three hours in aerosols, four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two-three days on plastic and stainless steel.
It is advisable to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects using regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Of course when you have a new baby it is exciting and friends and family want to meet your baby and have a cuddle. With the COVID-19 crisis this needs to be carefully considered. We know the elderly are more vulnerable to severe complications.
I would not recommend having multiple friends and family visit. It would be worth restricting to those very close to you and limit the time of the visit.
The affects of COVID-19 on babies
Are babies at risk of serious complications?
Studies are only just becoming available about the effects of COVID-19 on children and information available is changing daily. Data from China and Italy has confirmed that COVID-19 is much less severe in children (including babies) than adults.
In the largest study to date that included 2143 paediatric patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, critical illness was extremely rare. In fact, some paediatric cases were asymptomatic.
This large study showed infants less than 12 months may suffer more serious illness, but this picture is less clear due to the high number of other respiratory viral infections suffered by this age group which can be more serious (cases not due to COVID-19).
Other smaller studies where the COVID-19 infection was confirmed have shown that infants under one year of age had no severe complications or intensive care admissions.
Neonates (newborns less than one month old) without any medical problems do not appear to be at an increased risk.
There is, as yet, no evidence of vertical transmission from mother to child. So no evidence that a pregnant mum with confirmed COVID-19 will pass it to her baby during the period immediately before or after birth.
Do the symptoms present differently in babies?
The known symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory viral infections and can present in babies. These include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Children (including babies) are more likely to have nasal congestion and runny nose. They are also more likely to have vomiting and diarrhoea.
Babies are unable to complain of a sore throat so what you may see is your baby going off feeds as a sign of a sore throat.
Adults may complain of shortness of breath. If a baby had shortness of breath you would see him or her breathing quickly (consistently more than 60-70 breaths per minute if a newborn) and you would see the chest sucking in and out around the ribs.
Please seek medical attention if this is occurring.
What happens if I contract COVID-19? Should I stay away from my baby? Can I continue to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is encouraged for all mums. The early data indicates that COVID-19 does not pass through breast milk, but protective antibodies to coronaviruses do. The concern for new mums who have COVID-19 is rather their close contact with their baby, as the virus is most commonly spread by respiratory droplets.
Like always, mums should thoroughly wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds) before each feed. Some guidelines are recommending COVID-19 positive new mums to wear a face mask while feeding.
The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh separating mum and baby.
If I suspect my baby has COVID-19 can they be tested?
If you are concerned your baby has COVID-19 you should contact 13HEALTH or your local doctor.
Currently testing for COVID-19 is only available for people who are feeling unwell AND have travelled overseas in the last 14 days OR have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
If your baby is unwell and doesn’t meet these criteria he/she may not be tested for COVID-19. This relates to availability of testing kits and may change over time. Your doctor will make the decision based on your baby’s symptoms.
Call ahead before seeing your doctor to advise of baby’s symptoms so they can prepare for your visit. If you are unsure about symptoms you could take the COVID-19 quiz.
If your doctor thinks it is indicated your baby can be tested for COVID-19. It involves collecting nasal and throat swabs.
Should I keep my other children away from my baby?
Only if they are unwell. Of course all the hygiene measures listed above apply. Social distancing measures are not realistic or expected among family members unless they are unwell or have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Then you need to stringently keep this person in a separate room. Of course this poses its own challenges with young children and may involve parents dividing and conquering the care between children to ensure proper quarantine in different parts of the house. Not easy!
We hope these answers provide the information you need to put your mind at ease and empower you through this very difficult time. Please do try and enjoy this very special time with your babies.
Paedicare’s team of qualified paediatricians provide patients with a combined 100 years of medical expertise. They provide trusted advice so you feel educated and confident with your exciting new role as parents. Learn more about the Paedicare team.