As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country, you’re probably doing your best to keep yourself and your family safe. But the virus is highly contagious and, even when you try hard to stay healthy, it’s possible that you or your child could eventually contract it.
If you find yourself in that scenario, don’t panic. Early research suggests babies with COVID-19 seem to do better compared to people in other age groups. So Protecting your baby wont be difficult.But there are a few things to keep in mind about caring for your family if you or your child happens to contract the virus. Here’s what experts have to say.
Caring for a baby who tests positive for COVID-19
First, you’ll want to keep your child and family members home to try to lower the risk that you’ll pass on the virus to someone else. You’ll also want to do your best to try to limit your child’s interactions with other members of your household as much as possible, says Patricia Garcia, M.D., a pediatrician and hospitalist at Connecticut Children’s.
Treat the symptoms
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 at this time, and patients are treated symptomatically, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Meaning, if your child has a fever, you can treat the fever with fever-reducing medication.
Danielle Fisher, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends opting for acetaminophen (Tylenol) and skipping ibuprofen. “There are some case reports that ibuprofen makes coronavirus worse,” she says.
Still, “we really don’t know scientifically, though,” she adds. Experts are learning more about the coronavirus each day, and the situation is constantly evolving (WHO tweeted that they do not recommend against using ibuprofen at this time). If your child does develop a fever, reach out to their pediatrician for the latest recommendation.
Always be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the label, and never give medication to babies under 2 months old unless your pediatrician tells you to.
Here are a few other ways you can treat your child’s symptoms, according to Dr. Fisher:
- Make sure your child is hydrating. If they’re younger, give them plenty of breast milk or formula. If your child is over the age of 1, “any liquid is great,” Dr. Fisher says, including milk, clear fluids and Gatorade.
- Treat a cough with honey. If your child keeps coughing, Dr. Fisher recommends giving her a teaspoon of honey several times a day. “It helps the cough better than any medicine,” she says. Keep in mind, though, that children under the age of 1 should not have honey due to botulism concerns.
- Try a humidifier. Placing a humidifier in your child’s room is an “excellent” way to help clear up congestion, Dr. Fisher says.
- Don’t stress if she’s not eating a lot. If your child continues to eat well, great. But fluids are the most important thing at this point. “If they’re drinking okay, that’s all they need to do,” Dr. Fisher says.
Keep an eye out for more severe symptoms
Dr. Fisher recommends calling your child’s pediatrician if she becomes “excessively fussy” and it goes on for more than three hours, or if your child develops difficulty breathing.
Also important: Always call your doctor if a baby under 3 months old is running a fever of 100.4º F or higher; if a baby 3 months or older is running a fever of 101.5º F or higher; or if your baby has been sick with a cold or flu, has a return of fever of 100.4º F or higher, and appears sicker.
According to the CDC, your child can leave the house again when she meets the following criteria:
- She has no fever for at least 72 hours without fever-reducing medication
- Her symptoms have improved
- At least seven days have passed since her symptoms first appeared
What if you test positive for COVID-19?
If you contract COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolating yourself from others at home. If you have a partner, try to isolate yourself from your baby and the rest of your family as much as possible.
Although limited data suggests that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted through breast milk, there are still many unknowns about the virus. Still, don’t suddenly stop nursing your baby out of COVID-19 fears without consulting your doctor first. “Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition for babies and can help them fight infection,” Dr. Fisher says.
In late April, the CDC released updated guidelines for breastfeeding mothers with suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19:
- Breastfeeding mothers should wash their hands using soap and water before touching their baby.
- If breastfeeding mothers do not have soap and water available to them, they should use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Breastfeeding mothers should wear a cloth face covering while nursing.
- Mothers should practice good hand hygiene when expressing breast milk.
- If possible, consider letting expressed breast milk be bottle-fed to the baby by a healthy caregiver.
- If a breastfeeding mother tests positive for COVID-19, her baby should be “considered as having suspected COVID-19 for the purposes of infection control” and remain isolated at home for 14 days.
- If the breastfeeding mother requires lactation services that cannot be done virtually, the lactation provider should follow recommended infection prevention and control measures, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
If you’re a single parent, Dr. Fisher recommends asking another family member to help care for your child, if possible. If not, just do your best to practice good hand hygiene, cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and regularly sanitize high-touch surfaces.
As for when you can go back out in public, the rules are the same for you as they are for your child.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician for help.