Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information for Children’s Health Advocates
Updated April 6, 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 likely spread through close contact with an infected person. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, others nearby can contract the virus by inhaling their respiratory droplets.
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.
There is currently no information on 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. Currently the CDC does not know whether COVID-19 would cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.
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, health officials do not know whether a pregnant woman infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her fetus or baby before, during or after delivery. Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html
Currently, the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in the breastmilk of infected women. There is also no information on whether the virus can be transferred through breastmilk. For other infectious diseases, like the flu, the CDC recommends that a mother continue breastfeeding while taking precautions to spread the virus to her baby. The CDC does not have specific guidance for breastfeeding for other, more similar viruses, like SARS-CoV or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
While breastfeeding supports the health of moms and babies, it is important to recognize that there is still much information needed about breastfeeding and COVID-19. Families should talk with their health care providers when deciding to breastfeed. If a mother with COVID-19 or who is under investigation because she has COVID-19 symptoms chooses to breastfeed, the CDC recommends important precautions, including:
- Washing her hands before touching the infant and, if expressing breast milk with a breast pump, washing her hands before touching the pump or bottle parts
- Wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast
- If expressing breast milk, following recommendations for proper cleaning after each use and considering having someone who is well feed the breast milk to the baby
Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html
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.
Find out about facts and recent updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/children-faq.html
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.
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.
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
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