If you have a baby, you may be concerned that they catch the coronavirus, particularly after the media has reported on an Australian child being diagnosed.
The good news is that so far, evidence shows that children never get seriously ill with coronavirus. And even if infected, they may have no symptoms.
However, coronavirus could affect infants in other ways. For example, there may be difficulties in accessing healthcare, consumer goods and childcare.
Thinking about these possibilities now and preparing yourself can help you manage what might happen.
Access to healthcare can be complicated, but there are ways
If the coronavirus spreads, the healthcare system will struggle to cope for a while.
Up to 20% of people receiving COVID-19 need hospital treatment for up to two weeks or more.
Hospitals and general practices can be overwhelmed by other coronavirus sufferers, which can make access to healthcare difficult if the child gets sick for any reason.
Recognizing this, the Australian government recently announced special provisions for parents of newborn babies who need to be billed in bulk when consulting a doctor or nurse via telephone or video call rather than in person.
There are also things you can do to help keep your baby healthy so they don’t need medical attention. By protecting them, you also protect the people around them who may be more vulnerable to serious coronavirus diseases.
Think about hygiene
The first thing you can do is practice good hygiene yourself. This includes washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with other people as much as possible, coughing or sneezing in the elbow or in a folded tissue and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Since children put their hands in their mouths, whatever happens, washing their faces and hands frequently and cleaning the surfaces and objects they could touch will help protect them from any infection.
How about nursery?
It is not surprising to most parents that children attending kindergarten are sick more often.
This is because babies and young children have an immature immune system, are in close contact with each other and may end up sharing saliva with each other by talking and touching the same toys.
So if you can, keep the child away from kindergarten. However, if you need to use it, when you take your baby from kindergarten, wash your hands and face, change clothes, then wash your hands, before picking them up in that big, warm hug.
Make sure the vaccinations are up to date
Routine vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect infants and children from disease.
So, keep your child’s vaccinations up to date to minimize the chance that they need medical attention while the health system is dealing with coronavirus.
If you are breastfeeding
Breast milk contains many ingredients to help prevent and fight infections. Babies are recommended to be fed only with breast milk until they are six months old and continue breastfeeding with other foods until the second year of life.
If the baby is less than six months old and breastfeeding, offering them only breast milk protects them from a range of infections and reduces the need for medical treatment or hospitalization.
If your baby is breastfeeding and using the formula, consider replacing the feed with breastfeeding.
If you have stopped breastfeeding entirely, you can start breastfeeding again if you wish (contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline for assistance).
If you have an older child who is still breastfeeding, breastfeeding will help protect him from other diseases until the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
If you are using the formula
It is easy to accidentally introduce germs into bottles while preparing baby formula. Therefore, since medical care can be difficult to access, it is worth paying special attention to avoid it.
Be very careful in preparing the bottles. This means always washing your hands thoroughly with soap, washing the bottles thoroughly, sterilizing them after each use and putting on the formula with hot water.
Remember to cool the bottle in the refrigerator, shake it gently and check that it is not too hot before giving it to your baby.
Buy supplies, such as diapers
Supply chains could be broken if many people get sick. And you may not be able to shop if you need to isolate yourself from home.
We recommend having two to three weeks of home supplies to prepare for this possibility. Consider stocking up on diapers for this period of time or keeping washable (cloth) diapers handy.
If you are breastfeeding infant formula, buy enough infant formula for three weeks but check the expiration dates.
What if mum contracted the coronavirus?
Mothers are more at risk of getting coronavirus than their babies.
And if you are breastfeeding and infected, it is recommended that you continue breastfeeding. This is because the virus has not been found in breast milk.
Wearing a mask when you are with the baby (even while feeding), washing your hands before and after contact with the baby and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and any feeding equipment will help prevent virus capture by of child.
If you are hospitalized or separated from your baby, you can express breast milk for them.
Think about protecting grandparents
If you or your partner gets sick, someone else may need help taking care of the baby or other children.
Children like to share their saliva with their caregivers and can become infected with the coronavirus but have no symptoms. So they can easily spread the infection to the people who care for them.
Many parents call grandparents to help with childcare. Unfortunately people over 60 are more likely to get seriously ill or die from coronavirus.
So if your standby companions are over 60, now is the time to think about making alternative arrangements for childcare.
Talk to grandparents about how they can reduce the risk of infection if they need to take care of the baby.
Karleen Gribble, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University and Nina Jane Chad, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney.
This article was republished by The Conversation with a Creative Commons license. Read the original article