Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information for Children’s Health Advocates
Updated September 25, 2020
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause symptoms similar to the common cold, like a runny nose, cough, and sore throat. They can also lead to more serious respiratory diseases, like pneumonia.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new coronavirus. It first appeared in China in 2019 and is now a global pandemic, with an increasing number of cases spreading across the U.S. COVID-19 can be fatal, though symptoms range from mild to severe. More severe cases seem to be associated with specific high-risk populations, including the elderly and those with serious pre-existing conditions. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is spread person-to-person, often through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks; or by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes
Knowledge about the outbreak, including who is most at risk and how it spreads, is constantly evolving. Below, is a summary of key information related to children’s health and links to information references.
Infants and Children
While children have been affected by COVID-19, they currently appear less likely to have severe symptoms when infected by the virus. However, children with underlying health conditions may be at an increased risk for complications.
COVID-19 and Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome
The CDC has made a connection between COVID-19 and Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC-C), a serious pediatric health condition. This condition is very rare. The American Academy of Pediatrics is closely monitoring the condition and they urge all families to call their pediatrician if they have any concerns about their children’s health. Learn more about the condition including symptoms here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/covid_inflammatory_condition.aspx
Face Coverings and Infants:
Cloth face coverings and face shields can make it more difficult for babies to breathe, which could lead to suffocation or strangulation.
Share our infographic on the dangers of face coverings for babies, and learn more about the CDC's recommendations for protecting babies and children against COVID-19 here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html
The CDC does not know whether pregnant women are more susceptible to COVID-19 or have a higher risk for illness, morbidity, or mortality. However, generally, pregnant woman may be more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. In other related coronavirus infections, pregnant women have been at higher risk than the general population for developing severe illness. It is important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illness as much as possible.
Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html
COVID-19's Impact on Families With Less Resources
It is important to acknowledge that families living in poverty will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Low-income populations may be more likely to have chronic health conditions, which put them at a heightened risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Moreover, important safety measures will likely hit them harder: closed schools means a loss of school breakfasts and lunches for children; closed businesses and quarantines means fewer paychecks to buy basic necessities; and seeking medical care if symptomatic is more difficult for someone without health insurance or easy access to care. In the coming months, national, state, and local efforts will continue to seek solutions to address COVID-19. During this time, we urge our network to keep under-resourced families top of mind and consider how to mitigate the added burden COVID-19 places on their health.
Currently, it is considered unlikely that pregnant woman infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her fetus during pregnancy. However, there is a risk for transmission after birth through person-to-person transmission. Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html
Breastfeeding supports the health of moms and babies and has vital nutritional benefits. Currently, the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in the breastmilk of infected women. Families should talk with their health care providers when deciding to breastfeed. If a mother with COVID-19 chooses to breastfeed, the CDC provides the following recommendations:
- If you are sick and choose to direct breastfeed:
- Wear a facemask and wash your hands before each feeding.
- If you are sick and choose to express breast milk:
- Express breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
- A dedicated breast pump should be provided.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk.
- If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.
Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html
Pediatric health care providers can find guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics here: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/breastfeeding-guidance-post-hospital-discharge/
There is not enough information yet to determine whether COVID-19 will have a more severe impact on children with asthma. However, in adults, we do know that COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract and can cause an asthma attack, which may lead to pneumonia or acute respiratory disease. Therefore, families with children with asthma should be extremely vigilant in following their current asthma regimens (e.g., regularly scheduled medicines) and practicing hand-washing as well as social distancing.
Sickle Cell Disease
Information about how COVID-19 will affect those living with sickle cell disease is evolving constantly. Individuals with sickle cell disease have weakened immune systems, so maximizing the prevention of infections is important.
- The Sickle Cell Disease Association of American has put together pertinent COVID-19 information for families and providers:
- American Society of Hematology (ASH) COVID-19 Resource Webpage
- Coronavirus and Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) reporting registry
- Guidance to providers on who care for individuals with SCD to help conserve red cell units and encourage donation and recruitment.
Additional references and resources
American Academy of Pediatrics tips for parents about COVID-19: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.aspx
American Academy of Pediatrics Critical Updates: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/
Infographics on COVID-19 and pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding from the World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/emergencies/COVID-19-pregnancy-ipc-breastfeeding-infographics/en/
CDC guidance for childcare providers that remain open: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-childcare.html
A collection of relevant COVID-19 resources related to children with medical complexity: https://cmccoiin.app.box.com/s/3xmf2twxoeuygpms9tag8vrcu97b92bg/folder/107204519251
Articles on COVID-19 and pediatric health in Spanish and English: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/#Information
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