Since 8 December 2019, an epidemic of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has spread rapidly across the world.
Studies since then have shown that it is likely to affect older men with comorbidities, and only a few infections were seen in children. It mainly happened in family clusters. One study from China found that out of 9 children affected and admitted in a hospital, 7 were female. Children of all ages can get affected with Covid, but all those who get infected don’t show any symptoms of illness.
Scientists are still not sure why children react differently from adults. Some experts feel it may be due to other coronaviruses that spread through the community and produce common cold in children, and since children get frequent colds, their immune systems may be primed to provide them some protection again Covid-19. Another possibility is that children’s immune system interacts with the virus differently in comparison to adults’.
Newborns can get affected with Covid-19 during childbirth or after delivery, from a sick caregiver. If you develop Covid-19 prior to delivery or are waiting for the test results, you can feed the baby wearing a mask and make sure you wash your hands frequently. You can keep a 6 feet distance with your baby at other times. When these steps are taken, the chances of the baby getting Covid are very small. Research shows that only 2% to 5% of infants were infected from mothers who tested positive just prior to delivery.
However, if the mother is severely ill with corona, she may need to be temporarily separated from the baby. Babies who test positive but are not symptomatic can be sent home with instructions that the caregivers frequently wash hands and wear a mask to protect themselves. They should be in frequent touch with the paediatrician through virtual consultations. Similarly, since infants less than 2 years cannot wear masks, they need specific protective measures. Adult caregivers should wash hands, wear masks, sterilise toys and clean tableware regularly.
* nasal congestion or runny nose
* sore throat
* shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
* headache, muscle pain, fatigue
* nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
* poor feeding
* loss of taste and/or smell
* conjunctivitis or pink eye
If you suspect your baby may have Covid, call your paediatrician and keep the baby at home. If possible, keep the baby in a separate room. Your paediatrician will decide about doing a test for Covid. A nasopharyngeal swab is taken from the back of the nose and it usually takes 24 hours to get the report.
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C)
MIS-C is a serious condition in which some parts of the body, such as the heart, kidney, lungs, blood vessels, digestive system, brain, eyes and skin, get inflamed. The presence of Covid-19 antibodies in these children reveals a past Covid-19 infection, suggesting an immunesystem reaction against Covid.
Signs and symptoms of MIS-C
* high fever that lasts longer than 24 hours
* vomiting and diarrhoea
* pain in the stomach
* skin rash
* red eyes; swollen, red tongue
* fast heartbeat
* red and swollen hands
* feeling excessively tired
* headache and lightheadedness
* enlarged lymph glands
Emergency warning signs that you need to take the baby to hospital or contact your doctor:
* drowsiness or inability to stay awake
* difficulty in breathing
* bluish discolouration of lips and face
* severe stomach ache
Tips to prevent Covid-19
Most of you reading this book must be well aware about all the precautions one needs to take but here they are again. The CDC and WHO recommend that you and your family follow these precaution:
* Keep your hands clean.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
* Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you sneeze or cough or use a tissue. After discarding the tissue, wash your hands.
* Avoid touching your face frequently.
* Have the children wash their hands after returning home. Teach them to wash with soap, especially between the fingers right up to the fingertips, including the thumbs and back of the hand. They can be taught to sing the ‘happy birthday’ song twice while washing their hands – that is around 20 seconds.
* Practice social distancing: Maintain a distance of 6 feet or 2 metres with anyone who is sick or has any symptoms. Go out only when needed and leave children at home, if possible. Avoid playdates during the pandemic. If other children are playing outside, try to keep a 6 feet distance.
* Clean and disinfect your home: Focus on everyday cleaning of surfaces that are frequently touched, such as tables, doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, switches, desks, handles, toilets and sinks.
* Clean areas that babies touch frequently, such as changing tables, bed frames, toys, among others.
* Use soap and water to clean toys that babies put in the mouth and make sure you rinse them well. Wash the baby’s bed linen and soft toys regularly.
* If your baby has Covid, caregivers must ensure they wash their hands well after changing diapers and handling toys.
* Wear a face mask: The CDC recommends face masks in public spaces, such as grocery stores, where it is difficult to maintain social distance. Children under 2 don’t need to wear a mask, and the same applies to children who have breathing problem or an illness that would prevent them from being able to remove the mask without help.
* Finally, don’t delay your doctor’s visits, especially with regard to vaccines. Ensure they are done on time.
Excerpted from It's Your Baby: The Indian Parent's Guide to the First Two Years by Dr. Saroja Balan, with permission from HarperCollins India. The book, currently on pre-order, releases on 27 January.