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Your Baby and COVID-19

baby covid

Living through this COVID 19 pandemic is a frightening time for everyone, but can be especially worrying if you are also the parent of a baby or young child. Learning to parent and trying to establish a new routine, whilst at times isolated from your support network, can be difficult, we can appreciate that. But we are here today to hopefully help put your mind at rest a little bit, and to let you know that there are thousands of new parents in the same boat right now- and you are all absolutely nailing it, I promise you!

In this article we will be looking at some of the classic symptoms of COVID 19 to look out for in your baby, as well as telling you a bit about the testing process in case your little one is required to take part in it. We will also be sharing some of the top tips we have gathered from our colleagues and our parenting community about how best to keep you and your little one safe in this uncertain time we are living in.

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BABY COVID SYMPTOMS

Symptoms spotting for a virus as complicated at this one can be tricky. Current advice is that if you see any sign, no matter how mild, of any symptom at all, then you should arrange to get yourself or your child tested, just to be on the safe side.

I’m sure by now most of you have heard that the SARS-CoV-2 virus presents different in different people, but there does seem to be a bit of a pattern based on the age of the infected person. Fortunately, babies and young children do seem to have a much milder version of the disease than adults, and although it can still be unpleasant to see your little one unwell, you can take some reassurance in the fact that it is very unlikely to be life threatening for them.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 to look out for in people of any age are:

  • A fever

  • a cough - particularly a new cough that is continuous or dry

  • tiredness/fatigue

  • sore throat

  • loss of smell and taste

Other slightly less commonly reported symptoms, again across all age ranges are:

  • aches and pains

  • diarrhoea and/or stomach complaints

  • conjunctivitis

  • headache

  • a rash on skin

  • discolouration of fingers or toes

There are also a few other symptoms which are rare but more severe, and urgent medical assistance should be sought if you or your child develop any of these:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • chest pain or pressure

  • loss of speech or movement

All of the above mentioned symptoms of COVID-19 could present in your baby or child of any age, but statistically it has been shown that the vast majority of young people will experience much milder versions of them than adults. In fact most children tend to have an asymptomatic version of the infection, which means they don't have any symptoms at all.

The most typical presentation of the COVID-19 virus in children and babies appears to be:

  • loose stool

  • mild fever

  • just not quite themselves

  • and with a cough presenting later

Some younger people with the Delta Variant are presenting with headache, sore throat and a runny nose, so symptoms similar to the symptoms of a bad cold

But it is worth being aware of and vigilant for any signs of all of the possible symptoms discussed above.

WHAT TO DO IF MY BABY IS DISPLAYING COVID SYMPTOMS?

The advice from NHS.uk if your child is presenting any possible symptom of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, however mild the symptoms may be, is:

1. Get a PCR test (test that is sent to a lab) to check if they have COVID-19 as soon as possible.

2. Your child should stay at home and not have visitors (self-isolate) until you get the test result – they can only leave home to have the test.

3. Check if you and anyone else your child lives with need to self-isolate.

To keep up to date with the most recent instructions with regard to self isolation requirements, CLICK HERE.

BABY COVID TEST

If you have identified symptoms of COVID-19 in your baby or child and need to get them tested, it will be a PCR test that needs to be undertaken. You can book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site local to you, where a medical professional or trained volunteer will take the swab of your little one for you, or you can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home.

Some parents feel like they would prefer to have the reassurance of somebody practised doing the test for them, but others feel like the process of going through the test centre and encountering a stranger in full PPE would be stressful or scary for their very young child, and therefore prefer to do the test from the comfort of their own home. Both options are valid and should return results within a similar time frame. You can order your at home PCR testing kit HERE.

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Whether you choose to take your baby or child to a COVID-19 test centre or choose to test them yourself at home, it will involve taking a swab sample with a long cotton bud. Children aged over 12 years old can take the swab themselves, parents or guardians have to swab test children aged 11 or under.

Taking a swab sample of a baby or young child can be quite a daunting task, and to be perfectly honest with you, they aren’t going to enjoy the process and there is a high chance they will find it distressing. For this reason, as it is very important that you manage to get a useable sample, we suggest the following tips:

  • You may find it easier with another adult on hand to help you as your baby or child may wriggle or want to touch the swab

  • You can help soothe your baby or child by distracting them, perhaps by playing some music or singing to them.

  • For young babies you could try a swaddle to keep them still and help them feel secure.

  • Again for babies it is recommended to take the swab before you feed your baby, to reduce the risk of them vomiting when you do the test. This also has the added bonus of meaning you can offer them a milk feed after the test to comfort them.

  • Do not conduct the test if you do not feel confident to do so. Your child will pick up on your distress and you are unlikely to get a thorough sample.

  • Always blow your little one’s nose to remove excess mucus before taking the nose sample.

  • For toddlers and slightly older children, always explain first what you are about to do and why it is so important, and keep reassuring them throughout.

  • If your little one is old enough to co-operate, ask them to stick their tongue out and say ‘ahhhhh’.

  • If your child is old enough, don’t be shy of using good old-fashioned bribery! There aren’t many thing my little' one’s won’t co-operate with for the promise of chocolate buttons!

HOW TO DO A COVID-19 TEST ON A BABY OR CHILD

Remain calm and confident when taking a swab sample from your child, remember that it will only be unpleasant for them for a very short time and that you are doing it for a very good reason.

Your test will come with detailed instructions of exactly what to do and how to handle and store the swab. But we have included these helpful extracts from Public Health’s information booklets so that you can get an idea of what the process will involve for you and your baby or young child:

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HOW TO CARE FOR A CHILD WITH COVID

As the vast majority of babies and children who develop COVID-19 will have very mild symptoms, it’s likely that if your little one is one of them that you will be caring for them at home. Here are some tips we have gathered to help you out if this is the case:

  • Make sure you take advice from your child’s health care provider and that you fully understand any instructions they give you. Child friendly painkiller’s like Calpol or Nurofen may be recommended to you to help your abby or child with any fever and body aches they are experiencing. Make sure you do not exceed the daily recommended dose for your child’s age and weight.

  • It sounds incredibly basic, but taking on lots of fluids is really beneficial. If they are experiencing any loss of taste from the virus, it may be difficult to keep their fluids up when you can’t entice them with nice tasting drinks, but eating fruit and ice lollies can also help get liquids into little ones. And let’s face it, what toddler is going to turn down an ice lolly for breakfast! Plus the coldness may actually be soothing if they have a sore throat.

  • Again, a simple but effective one, but your baby or child will need lots of rest. Allow them to nap whenever they require it, it’s ok to let your routine go out the window for a short while so your little one can regain their strength, there will be plenty of time to get back into it when they are well

  • Fresh air can help any unwell person feel better so if you have a garden, try and get your child out there each day. If this isn’t an option, keep the house well ventilated with open windows.

  • A humidifier could be used around the home if your child is congested.

  • Use cool mist vaporizer or saline drops or nasal spray (with bulb suction for babies) to relieve congestion.

  • Avoid strenuous exercise or your child getting too over-excited where possible, but gentle walking and movement is encouraged (try not to let them lie in bed or on the couch for the whole day - even gently moving their legs for half an hour to get blood circulating could help).

Be sure to follow up with your health care provider if your child’s condition worsens in any way, if they have a fever for more than three consecutive days, or if they are having trouble breathing or drinking or if they do not urinate at least three times over 24 hours, or you have any other concerns.

Seek immediate medical care if your child develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Extensive Diarrhoea or Vomiting

  • Rash or change in skin colour

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Trouble breathing

  • Pressure in the chest that doesn't go away

  • Becoming confused

  • Unable to wake up or stay awake

  • Bluish lips or face

You can always get advice from the NHS by calling 111 if you're worried about your child or not sure what to do, and in an emergency don’t be afraid to call 999 thats what they are there for.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR BABY SAFE FROM COVID?

We understand the biggest concern of parents and caregivers around the world is likely to be: how can we protect our little ones in the midst of a pandemic.

Well, firstly, the best way to keep children safe is about prevention. We want to prevent as many infections as we possibly can all over the world. You can do this by helping to teach them as soon as they are old enough about good hygiene practises, and also by taking your own personal hygiene very seriously too. Things to remember include:

  • Keep little ones hands clean (never an easy task with sticky little toddlers even in normal times!). This means regular hand washing first and foremost, but may include using alcohol hand gels where appropriate too.

  • Do not allow babies, toddlers and young children to put things in their mouth when out and about in public.

  • Consider keeping toddlers contained in a sling or pushchair when in public areas- we know they have a habit of touching and licking everything in sight, so do all you can to minimise these opportunities.

  • Respectfully ask friends and family not to kiss your new arrivals, or perhaps to where a mask when visiting for those first cuddles.

  • As soon as little ones are old enough to understand, teach them and demonstrate good respiratory etiquette such as sneezing or coughing into their elbow.

  • Outside of your immediately family, keep your distance from people as much as possible. Don’t be pressured into accepting visitors to see your new baby if you don’t feel comfortable, and never feel like you have to allow anyone to hold your little one if you don’t want to.

For slightly older children, it’s important to talk to them about what is going on around them. The sudden introduction of extra hygiene measures and restrictions on their freedom can be confusing for them, and they will need lots of reassurance from you as their care-giver. Take time to talk to them and answer their questions, and consider ways that you can make following the guidelines fun.

  • One way of making sure that children are washing their hands for long enough, whilst making all those extra trips to the sink feel like fun at the same time can be to sing a song! The NHS recommendation is to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds at a time, and there a number of songs that you can sing to help little one’s remember exactly how long 20 seconds is. A jolly chorus of jingle bells lasts for 20 seconds, and so does the family favourite Baby Shark! Check out this version HERE for inspiration, or come up with a tune of your own…

  • Check out your local guidelines for mask-wearing for children. Often under 12’s are exempt from wearing one in many places, but if your little one will tolerate wearing one it can be good practise. Always wash hands before putting on a mask and before taking it off, and also teach your child not to touch or fiddle with their mask once it is in place. Why not try out one of these mask’s with cute patterns on?

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COVID VACCINE FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN

At the moment there is no approved COVID-19 vaccine for babies and young children.

This is for two main reasons. Firstly this is a newly developed vaccine, and vaccines are usually tested in adults first, and only later assessed in children when safety has been proven in adults, because children are still developing and growing.

Secondly, while the supply of vaccines is limited, the ongoing priority is to vaccinate those most at risk of serious illness who still have not been vaccinated in many parts of the world: older people, those with chronic health conditions, and health workers. Children are at a much lower risk of serious disease and therefore are not a priority for vaccination.

FAQ

ARE YOUNG CHILDREN REALLY ‘SUPER-SPREADERS’ OF THE VIRUS?

No. Children are no more likely to be contagious than adults, and contact with an infected child carries the same level of risk as that of contact with an infected adult. The problem occurs in that more children than adults are asymptomatic, which means they could be unaware that they even have the COVID-19 virus and therefore still out and about in the community than in self-isolation.

ARE YOUNG CHILDREN MORE LIKELY TO CATCH COVID-19?

There is no evidence to suggest that that the virus specifically targets young children, meaning that it's not infecting children more than would be likely of other viruses that are circulating in the area.

Increased transmission of the virus among young children during later waves of the pandemic can mainly be attributed to the fact that more schools and facilities are remaining open, so the opportunity to catch the virus is greater.