Babies and coronavirus: Are they at risk?

Apr 11, 2020
Babies have a much lower risk of getting sick from the new coronavirus. Source: Getty.

We all know older people and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk of contracting coronavirus, but what about babies? With all the news about the coronavirus outbreak circulating online, you might be worried about your infant grandchildren contracting the deadly virus. Here’s what you need to know about babies and coronavirus.

What we know so far

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of more than 72,000 Chinese coronavirus patients showed that just 1 per cent of those infected were under the age of nine.

Similarly, a report from the WHO-China joint mission on Covid-19 showed that only 2.4 per cent of the infected were 18 years old or younger. Out of those infected young people, 2.5 per cent developed a severe case of the disease and 0.2 per cent developed a critical case.

However, while the overall risk to children is low, infants can experience more severe symptoms from Covid-19 compared to older children. One study published in the journal Pediatrics found toddlers, especially those under the age of one, had a higher risk of getting seriously ill from the virus.

So how does coronavirus affect babies?

Dr Ian Williams told Starts at 60 that infants are affected much like everyone else, often presenting with a cough, runny nose, fever and in severe cases, shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia. He added that the higher risk for babies may be because infants’ immune systems are still developing.

“The immune system of babies is immature, so adults are more of a risk to babies than babies are to adults,” he said.

In fact, a small study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that there is the possibility that pregnant women who have Covid-19 could pass the virus onto their babies. The study, which looked at 33 women in China who tested positive for the virus, found that three gave birth to newborns who were then diagnosed with the virus. Interestingly, all three infants recovered, adding to a growing body of research showing that children suffer from milder symptoms.

What precautions should be taken?

Dr Williams reckons routine vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect babies from getting sick.

“Usual immunisation schedules should be maintained during the outbreak of Covid-19 as all the other illnesses are still a risk to children and adults,” he said. “For people wanting to visit newborns, I would recommend that visitors should be well and be immunised for influenza and whooping cough.”

Although, it’s probably best to avoid having guests over until the virus has been maintained, especially those over 60 who may be at a higher risk of infection.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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