COVID-19 is probably the last thing anyone wants to talk about anymore. With news first breaking about a mysterious outbreak in 2019, no one could have predicted we’d still be in the midst of a global pandemic in 2022.
Navigating this time has been difficult for all of us, but especially for parents, it’s been tough to stay on top of the latest developments and understand how this virus could affect children. Newborns seem frail enough as it is, so what could this virus do if they were to catch it and how can we protect them?
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Can a newborn catch COVID-19
COVID-19 turned the world upside down as it spread across the globe. While we’re still learning about this new virus and how it affects those who contract it, there’s much more information available now to help you make informed decisions for your family.
So, what exactly is covid, and can your newborn catch it?
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first detected in China at the end of 2019, which is why the World Health Organization designated it COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019. It’s caused by SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Some of the most common symptoms include fever and coughing but the virus can cause more severe symptoms such as pneumonia and trouble breathing.
Unfortunately, parents, kids of any age can contract the virus. But on the bright side, kids appear to be less likely to experience serious illness, although it can still happen, especially as new variants we don’t know much about yet begin to emerge. For example, since the Delta variant started spreading in the United States, more children have needed to be hospitalized than earlier on in the pandemic, with the highest rates being reported in areas with lower vaccination rates.
In the United States, around 14% to 16% of lab-confirmed positive covid tests were in children under 18 years of age. The number of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in younger children has increased over time, possibly because of the increased availability of testing. Each week, children account for approximately 15% of all new cases reported to the CDC, though it’s suspected this is an underestimated number due to asymptomatic or mild cases in children that go untested.
While children of all ages can catch covid, the chances seem to increase with age. Between March and December of 2020, there were over one million positive tests in children under the age of 18. Of those tests, 38.3% occurred in kids 14 through 17 years of age, 18.6% in kids 11 through 13 years of age, 25.7% in kids 5 through 10 years of age, and 17.4% in kids 0 through 4 years of age.
How is COVID-19 spread
Your newborn can catch covid but so far, the research seems to show the chances are slimmer than in older children and, while there’s still a risk of serious illness, covid doesn’t seem to affect children as severely as adults. However, it’s important to stay vigilant as we learn more and as new variants develop.
With the chance of your newborn catching covid being smaller, it’s still important to know how it can happen and ways you can prevent it. Covid mainly spreads from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks near others. The virus is then spread through particles that can easily travel through the air. Doctors also believe the virus can be spread by touching infected surfaces though that seems to be a less common occurrence.
Early on in the pandemic, most cases in children were the result of household exposure. In a case-control study, close contact with people who had COVID-19, having visitors over at the home, and going to large gatherings with people outside of the household was associated with positive covid cases in young children and adolescents. So, if you’ve been looking for more reasons to not attend those birthday parties, here’s your very justifiable excuse backed by research.
How do you know if your newborn has covid
Symptoms appear to be milder in children than in adults, making it easy to go unrecognized before a diagnosis. Clinical findings in kids with covid vary, but the most reported symptoms are fever, chills, and cough. Case surveillance in the U.S. showed that among children aged 0 through 9 fever was reported in 46% of cases, cough 37%, shortness of breath in 7%. Other less frequently reported symptoms included sore throat, headache, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
In studies limited to infants under the age of 12 months, additional findings revealed that feeding difficulty and fever without an obvious source as common symptoms, with respiratory symptoms potentially being minimal and, if present, similar to those caused by other coronaviruses or influenza. If your newborn is presenting any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical advice and testing.
If your newborn tests positive, you may be worried about the likelihood of severe disease and hospitalization. Although severe cases have been reported, most children have asymptomatic, mild, or moderate cases and recover within one or two weeks.
In a review of over 7400 children under the age of 18 with confirmed cases of COVID-19, information about the severity of cases was available for a little over 1400. Among those cases, 15% were asymptomatic, 42% were mild, 39% were mild to moderate, 2% were severe, and 0.7% were critical. There were only six deaths in the entire study.
Very severe cases in children, while it can happen, is rare. The chances that your newborn would be perfectly fine even if they were to contract covid is very high.
Again, the research and understanding of covid and how it affects children and adults alike are still developing, especially as new variants of concern emerge. It’s important to remain vigilant and aware of what’s happening and how you can protect your newborn.