Raising Healthy Babies and Children During COVID-19
By Nuvance Health Pediatricians Dr. Maria Lombardi and Dr. Christina Mezzone
By now you know COVID-19 is a virus that can cause a range of symptoms. Some people will have mild symptoms while others can develop more serious illness requiring hospitalization. There are also those who can be asymptomatic, carry the virus and spread it unknowingly.
Please know that we are here for you during this uncertain time
We offer Virtual Visits to try to keep you at home and safe whenever possible. Telemedicine is a great way for us to communicate with you and offer medical advice while keeping you safe. Call the office to schedule a Virtual Visit.
If you have a newborn and need advice or are struggling, don’t hesitate to call us. Your pediatrician is an excellent resource for understanding your baby and your own needs, including postpartum depression.
What do we know about COVID-19 and kids?
Because COVID-19 is new, the best data we have so far comes from China where the pandemic first started. We know that kids can be asymptomatic, carry the virus and infect others. When children who have COVID-19 do develop symptoms, the most common ones are cough and fever. They can also have a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea.
Recently, a rare but serious health condition has emerged called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, believed to be connected to COVID-19. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your child, call your pediatrician:
- A fever lasting more than 24 hours
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
Rash or changes in skin color (pale, red, blue)
- Your child seems confused or overly sleepy
Your child does not have to have all of these symptoms to call. Even one symptom should prompt a phone call. Be sure to let your pediatrician know if your child has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus. Your child can still develop this condition if they were exposed to COVID-19 and never had symptoms or a mild illness and was never tested for the virus.
While multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children sounds frightening, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds parents that this condition is very rare.
Should I take my children to the doctor right now?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that any child age 2 and under still see their pediatrician for routine check-ups and vaccinations. These vaccines are crucial in preventing serious bacterial and viral infections in this age group.
Newborn visits are still necessary to monitor weight gain or loss, screen for jaundice and establish a framework for ongoing care.
Parents of children who are older than two years old can discuss when to reschedule their children’s annual physical exams with their pediatrician.
If you are worried about visiting your doctor’s office, we recommend you call ahead and ask what precautions the office is taking.
If you think your child has been exposed to COVID-19, call the office to arrange a Virtual Visit. If you feel they need immediate care, please call ahead before heading to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911.
Is it safe to breastfeed my baby?
There is limited data on whether this type of coronavirus is passed in breastmilk. However, so far there have been no known cases of transmission through breastmilk and we know enough about the protective effects of human milk to recommend the continuation of breastfeeding. Breastmilk has immunologic properties that boost the baby’s immune system. We know that with other illnesses, mothers pass protective antibodies to their babies through breastmilk.
You should thoroughly wash your hands and wear a mask when you breastfeed if:
- You are under investigation for COVID-19
- Have suspected COVID-19 through clinical diagnosis
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through laboratory testing
If you have active symptoms, such as cough, fever or shortness of breath, you may choose to express your breastmilk with a breast pump and have someone else feed your breastmilk to your baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations vary on the separation of mother and baby. If you do continue direct breastfeeding, comply with strict preventive precautions that include the use of a mask and meticulous breast and hand hygiene.
How should you clean your breast pump?
Clean immediately after use. If you wash by hand, don’t place them in a sink or use an ordinary dish sponge. Wash parts with hot soapy water in a basin only used for this purpose. If your parts are dishwasher safe, run them on high and a heated or sanitizing setting. You can also use a sterilization bag in a microwave. Do not store wet breast pump parts. For more help, visit our CDC link in the resources section.
What should you share with your children about the pandemic?
We offer some helpful guidance for talking to your children about COVID-19 here, including how to minimize fears by providing a sense of calm, as well as clear and honest information that is understandable for their age level.
What can you do to keep your family healthy?
All public health agencies recommend good handwashing. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60 percent or more alcohol. In addition, teach your child to not touch their face and to cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of their elbow.
You can clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved cleaning agents. This article can help you learn what to clean with.
In addition, practice social distancing to keep everyone healthy and stop the virus spread. As hard as this is for everyone, it does mean no playdates and no social visiting.
Where can you learn more?
Make sure your information comes from trustworthy sources, places like the AAP, CDC and state Department of Health (DOH).
What are some resources you should check out?
- Social Distancing: Why Keeping Your Distance Helps Keep Others Safe
- Working and Learning from Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Hand Washing: A Powerful Antidote to Illness
- Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events
- Coronavirus Prevention and Treatment
- CDC Home Care Guidance
Where can parents turn to for additional support?
New parenting can feel overwhelming at times. Remember although grandma may be unable to visit, there are other ways people can help you. Social media avenues continue to allow connections between family and friends. New parent groups continue to remain active and a great resource. Neighbors and friends often are also willing to lend a hand to do errands for you and pick up extra diapers to be left at your doorstep. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.