How to Care for a Newborn or Baby With COVID-19
You’re surely doing everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the virus, especially the Omicron and B.2.12.1 variants, are highly contagious. Even when you try hard to stay healthy, it’s possible that your child could test positive for COVID-19.
If you find yourself in that scenario, don’t panic. Research suggests babies and young kids with COVID-19 do better compared to people in other age groups. But there are a few things to keep in mind about caring for your family if your child contracts the virus.
Can newborns get COVID-19?
Existing evidence indicates that COVID-19 infections in newborns are uncommon, but they do happen. Transmission is primarily thought to occur when babies are exposed to family members or caregivers infected with COVID-19 themselves.
New parents can take comfort in the fact that most babies with COVID-19 experience asymptomatic infections or mild disease, and severe illness is reported but seemingly rare.
What are symptoms of COVID-19 in newborns?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported COVID-19 symptoms in newborn babies include:
- Runny nose
- Difficulty breathing
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Poor feeding
How should you care for a baby with COVID-19?
If your baby has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, you can take steps to make her feel more comfortable and reduce the likelihood that other family members will contract the disease.
If your child tests positive for COVID-19, she should stay home for at least five full days, and continue taking precautions (such as by avoiding older relatives who could get very sick from COVID-19) for 10 days. The CDC defines “day one” as the first full day after last contact with someone who had COVID-19.
If you or any other members of the household test negative for COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, the CDC says you may go out but should take precautions (such as by wearing a mask when around others and watching for symptoms) for 10 days after initial exposure, to be safe.
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 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Treat the symptoms
There is no specific at-home treatment for babies with 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, in Baltimore, Maryland. In other words, if your child has a fever, you can treat the fever with fever-reducing medication (if your child is old enough).
Always be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the label, and never give medication to babies under 2 months old unless your pediatrician specifically tells you to.
Here are a few other ways you may treat your child’s symptoms:
- Keep your child hydrated. If she’s younger, give her plenty of breast milk or formula. If your child is over the age of 1, “any liquid is great,” Dr. Fisher says, including milk and clear fluids.
- Treat a cough with honey. If your child continues to cough, 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, however, that children under the age of 1 should not have honey due to botulism concerns.
- Try a humidifier. Placing a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room is an “excellent” way to help clear up congestion, Dr. Fisher says. (Due to potential burn concerns the AAP recommends this type of humidifier for babies; here are some of our favorites.)
- Don’t stress if she’s not eating a lot. If your child has already started solids and 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 she develops difficulty breathing.
Also important: Always call your doctor if a baby under 3 months old is running a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher; if a baby 3 months or older is running a fever of 101.5 degrees F or higher; or if your baby has been sick with a cold or flu, has a return of fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher and appears sicker.
Get your child vaccinated
Now that the COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use in children ages 6 months and older, get your little one vaccinated as soon as possible (and boosted if she’s eligible) to protect her from getting COVID again in the future.
When can a baby with COVID-19 leave home isolation?
According to the CDC, your child who tested positive for COVID-19 can leave the house again when she meets the following criteria:
- If she had symptoms: After five full days if her symptoms are improving and she has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medications.
- If she was asymptomatic: At least five full days after testing positive.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician for help.
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