What To Know About Coronavirus, Pregnancy, Babies & Kids
This post is no longer being updated. You can find Romper's recent coronavirus coverage here.
We know to sing the new Baby Shark song while we help wash those little hands, and we totally understand that we’re not supposed to panic (or hoard toilet paper), but parenting through the coronavirus pandemic means dealing with uncertainty. The best thing parents (and parents-to-be) can do is arm ourselves with facts and common sense. Know the symptoms of coronavirus (including when it’s time to call a doctor), keep an eye on the latest CDC coronavirus updates, and check in here on specific questions relevant to those of us navigating this uneasy territory while providing for and taking care of tiny humans.
This coronavirus resource page, curated and written by Romper editors, is updated regularly as the situation unfolds and the realities of school closings, work-from-home policies, and quarantines unfold. If you have additional questions that we haven’t covered here, please send an email to email@example.com and we’ll do our best to get trusted and vetted experts on the job. We’re all in this together!
First of all, what is the deal with babies and kids and the coronavirus?
You’ve probably seen articles talking about how the coronavirus seems to be sparing young children, and it is really fascinating to try to understand why and what that could mean in terms of a vaccination or a cure. On a super practical level, though, you should know that, of course, being small humans, kids can contract the novel coronavirus. However Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist, told Romper earlier the CDC has been upfront about the fact that most reported cases have been in adults. Perhaps even more of a relief is knowing that, when they do get it, the symptoms are on average no big deal. "Based on very limited data, the symptoms of COVID-19 in children seem to be generally mild: runny nose, cough, and fever," Dr. Rishi Desai, a former epidemic intelligence service officer in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC, told Romper. Basically, a child with coronavirus may appear to have a bad cold, though vomiting and diarrhea might also be part of the picture.
If your little one does show any of these symptoms, all experts agree that the most important thing to do is to not panic, but go ahead and give your pediatrician’s office a call to figure out the best course of action. As Dr. Shira Doron, infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told Romper, “If your child has symptoms of a respiratory virus, chances are it’s one of the many common viruses circulating in the community, but even if it is COVID-19, your child is likely to be just fine."
Is there anything about babies and the coronavirus I specifically need to know?
One really important thing to know is those viral Facebook posts about being able to get free formula directly from formula makers are totally false. You can, however, call and order from them directly!
"We are aware of a post being circulated on social media that offers free formula," Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac, told Romper. "Currently, Similac is not offering any free product through our customer service line, but our team is focused on doing all that we can to ensure adequate supply at retail for all customers who need it."
And a rep for Gerber told us there is absolutely no deed to worry about the formula supply! While some stores may be experiencing shortages of formula at the moment, Gerber stressed there was not a shortage of formula.
"We are working closely with our retail partners to restock any empty shelves as quickly as possible to meet demand," the brand assured Romper. "We have increased production and are now operating seven days a week, doing everything we can to quickly fill retail orders as soon as they're received so we can help stores maintain their stocks."
I'm stuck at home with my kids... Help!
We got you! First of all, we all need a laugh. And then our editor Samantha Darby, who works from home with her two little girls on a regular basis, has truly the best advice about how to make it work and keep your sanity. It's all about filling those little cups.
OK, but I reeeeaaaalllly need some kids' entertainment ideas...
Oh, boy, do we got you! We invited some of our favorite people, including beloved children's book authors and illustrators, to read us stories. And they delivered! We're also working 'round the clock (well, pretty much!) to bring you zillions of ideas for keeping little ones (and bigger ones!) entertained. And when we says zillions, we mean it, like how about this list of literally 1,001 ideas for bored kids?!
Check back often!
More books to read and listen to:
More things to do (and watch — screen time is our friend right now!):
I am having a hard time controlling my own coronavirus anxiety, let alone my kids’ fears! Help!
Whether it's on TV, at school, or from a friend, kids are bound to hear about the new coronavirus somewhere and, naturally, they may feel a bit worried about it all. The Child Mind Institute recommends parents answer their children's questions honestly, based on their maturity and age, and reassure them that, as early research shows, children seem to experience milder symptoms if they do become sick with COVID-19. Additionally, according to the CDC, “there is no evidence that children are more susceptible” to the new virus.
If you need a little assistance explaining this complex topic, NPR's Malaka Gharib created a wonderful, kid-friendly comic that explains the new coronavirus in simple terms. You can print out a copy here.
"Remember that your kids take their cues from you. If you are obsessively worried about the coronavirus and talking about it, your kids will likely have anxiety about it, too," Barbara Nosal, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist, told Romper. It's hard, though, to keep calm, when everyone around us and on social media is in total panic mode, so we asked some experts for very simple, actionable tips on how to help keep our kids calm. Number one? You can't hid this from kids; instead, they need to know the honest facts. "Parents should stay ahead of the rumors, and get their information from a trusted source like the CDC and not social media," Nosal told us.
What about breastfeeding and the coronavirus?
Good news! In the “limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk," the CDC reported. And because of the immunological protections provided to the baby by breastfeeding, the experts Romper spoke with agree there’s often good reason for nursing moms to continue breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic.
La Leche League International points to research showing breastfed babies who were otherwise healthy and remained healthy even when other family members, including the mother, were infected by viruses. But of course, decision whether to nurse or not in any situation, however, is up to nursing mothers, and the CDC’s recommendation is that nursing moms make the decision to stop or continue nursing “in coordination with her family and healthcare providers” and that separation of mom and baby should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
What should pregnant people know about the coronavirus?
Overall, pregnant people should not panic. The UK’s National Health Service has noted that the immunologic and physiologic changes women experience during pregnancy deem them at a greater risk of viral respiratory infections like COVID-19, while previous guidance from the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released on March 9 suggested that pregnant women were likely to experience only mild or moderate cold/flu-like symptoms if they do contract the illness.
Where pregnant people fall into the population of people with chronic health conditions, who are overall more susceptible, RCOG advises that severe symptoms should be “identified and treated promptly.” High fevers during the first trimester can have adverse consequences, the CDC advises, while related coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) have previously been found to carry risks for pregnancies.
The available data on the novel coronavirus is reassuring: A small Wuhan University study, published in The Lancet, looked at nine women who contracted the coronavirus while in their third trimester, none of whom experienced especially severe symptoms. Likewise, there was no evidence that women who contracted COVID-19 late in pregnancy passed it to their fetuses.
For regular prenatal visits, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests looking into the use of telemedicine — online sessions — for low-risk pregnancies. (Some birth workers are also offering remote sessions.) Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University says women can also call ahead of their prenatal appointments and make sure they’re not waiting with other people.
Since nearly all hospitals are limiting delivery rooms to only one visitor, pregnant people should consider the possibility their doula will not be allowed to attend. Those who have scheduled cesareans or inductions should check with their hospital to find out about being screened for COVID-19, which Dr. Sanlare C. Gordon, obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in high-risk pregnancy at Anne Arundel Medical Center, says should occur at least 48 hours before coming into the hospital. Although the American College of Surgeons has recommended doctors reschedule all elective and diagnostic surgeries, both scheduled and emergency C-sections are not expected to be affected as they’re not considered elective.
The immediate risk to pregnant people is not concerning, but, to paraphrase Butch Cassidy, it’s the worry that’s gonna get you: A 2018 study by researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford found that pregnant people are 51% more prone to anxiety and depression than they were a generation ago, and stress about community spread can cause distress. Good hygiene and social distancing, where indicated, should alleviate concerns. Otherwise, ACOG notes that flu activity remains a greater risk, and health care providers should recommend the flu shot to any pregnant people who have not yet been vaccinated.
What if you're TTC? Do you need to put your plans on hold over coronavirus concerns?
If you're trying to conceive, you know that timing is everything. So does the fact that there's a global pandemic going on mean that this isn't a good time to try for a baby? Unfortunately, experts don't have all the answers just yet.
"There are a number of unknowns at the moment related to the coronavirus pandemic, fertility and pregnancy," Dr. Alex Polyakov, fertility specialist, obstetrician, and epidemiologist, told Romper. This makes it difficult for anyone to make a definitive statement about the coronavirus and its potential effects on fertility, he explains.
Your decision might depend partly on whether you've started treatments yet or not. "If you are an infertility patient and in the middle of treatment, stay the course," says Dr. Edward Marut, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois. "Remember that fertility patients and those of childbearing age are not in the high risk group." But if you even suspect you've had exposure to coronavirus, however, then this may impact your family plans for the time being.
"Women who have symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection (fever, shortness of breath, cough) and have either been exposed to a confirmed case or have tested positive themselves, should avoid getting pregnant until they are completely recovered," Barry Witt, M.D., the Medical Director of WINFertility, tells Romper. "This includes those who are planning on any fertility treatments in order to conceive."
How are teachers coping with coronavirus fears and school closings?
"My biggest fear is not about the coronavirus itself," one teacher told Romper. Her main concern? What will happen to the kids if (and when) the schools close. "Many students in our population are from low-income families, and often eat both breakfast and lunch at school. If we close, how will these kids eat?"
The grown-ups who spend their days with our kids have big jobs any day of the week, but during these weeks of fear and uncertainty over what’s going to happen with COVID-19, the teachers in the country have been doing especially important work. Schools around the world of course have already closed, and in cities here in the United States, school districts are starting to follow suit, with many universities opting for remote learning.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has published extensive coronavirus guidelines for teachers and educators, and every school district is making plans that make sense given the situation in their geographic region. One thing reigns supreme the country over: levelheaded preparedness. As Nicole Johnson, a teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina, told Romper earlier, she and her colleagues have been given guidance from their human resources department on how to approach the topic of coronavirus with their students: in a nutshell: “Do not induce fear, and encourage precautions like hand washing.”
What about older folks and coronavirus? Like my kid’s grandparents?
It’s well known at this point that older adults and those who are immunocompromised are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering complications because of it. The CDC recently recommended that any people at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 should stay home — and that likely means some of your children’s grandparents or great-grandparents. But that doesn’t mean you should bring the whole family over for a visit. Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based internist and gastro, told Romper that while doctors are trying to figure out the role of how children are carriers of coronavirus — children seem less susceptible to the disease than other groups — it’s still best to be cautious. "Common sense would suggest that if a child has any cold or respiratory symptoms, even if just mild, they should be separated from grandparents or relatives with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems,” he said.
But we also know that’s not always feasible, especially in a country where paid sick leave is a luxury, and where many families depend on their older relatives for help with child-rearing. Elliot Haspel, child-care policy expert, wrote for Romper that 80% of grandparents provide child care for free. Eighty percent! That means make a blanket rule that all doting grandparents should stay away from their germ-filled, adorable gaggle of grandchildren doesn’t always work. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a NYC neuropsychologist, told Romper that because of these tricky situations, it’s up to every family to decide what’s best for each individual member when it comes to coronavirus.
"As the parent, you are the one who will have to set the ground rules as to where children can and can't go and what their lifestyle will look like until the world has a better foothold on the COVID-19 Virus," Hafeez says.
What should we be doing to prepare in case of a coronavirus quarantine?
Social distancing and quarantines are a powerful way to reduce the speed and reach of a contagious disease but highly disruptive, so it’s worth preparing for such a situation. Though panic-buying face masks and vats of hand sanitizer has been discouraged, there are some basics you can store in your home ahead of time. Kathy Harrison, author of Prepping 101 and Just in Case suggests you have on hand:
- nonperishable food and beverages
- prescription medication
- basic over-the-counter medication: infant Tylenol, pediatric Motrin, vitamins, etc.
- hand soap
- hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
- a first-aid kit containing non-latex gloves, a thermometer, tweezers and scissors, waterproof bandages and gauze, and a digital thermometer
Keeping kids busy during a prolonged period of indoor or house-restricted play means having activities at the ready. Busy Toddler’s Susie Alison has a number of simple activities using objects you probably have in your house:
- a large storage container
- painter’s tape
- basic art supplies — construction paper, markers, crayons, paint
- dry rice
- basic kitchen tools
Lastly, school and daycare closures mean that parents will have to either find alternate child care arrangements, or prepare to ride out the quarantine at home. Child-care policy expert Elliot Haspel suggests that people who are not infected offer temporary help to neighbors who can’t afford time off work, or set up “babysitting brigades” of college and high school students to lessen the burden on parents.
I want to keep things as ~clean~ as possible: are there any disinfectants that kill the coronavirus?
Disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as door handles and remote controls is a crucial step in preventing the spread of any virus, but not all cleaning supplies will kill the coronavirus. “Using the correct disinfectant is an important part of preventing and reducing the spread of illnesses along with other critical aspects such as hand washing,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler was quoted as saying in a press release. To that end, the EPA released a list of disinfectant products that can effectively kill the virus, and you might even have some of them at home right now.
As explained by the EPA, coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, “meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product. Consumers using these disinfectants... should follow the directions for use on the product’s master label, paying close attention to the contact time for the product on the treated surface (i.e., how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface).” Using the recommended disinfectants the way they're meant to be used for the proper amount of time is the best way to clear your home of any potential germs. (That said, these cleaners are selling out very fast. Check out the EPA’s instructions for making an at-home bleach solution in lieu of the recommended cleaners here.)
How can we help people affected by the coronavirus?
There are tens of thousands of people in the world whose daily lives have been, at best, interrupted by the coronavirus, and that number is likely to grow. As Morgan Brinlee wrote for Romper, "while public health experts are encouraging social distancing in light of the coronavirus outbreak, perhaps it's more important than ever that we come together (metaphorically speaking) as communities to help those in need."
One great way to make a difference immediately is to each out to your local food bank or pantry (find these easily in your community by Googling "food bank near me" or "food bank" and your zip code or city) to see what items they need most. For example, Brinlee reports, the San Antonio Food Bank says giving $5 to its Coronavirus Preparedness & Prevention Campaign can help "fill an entire box with food and necessary cleaning supplies for a family."
Where’s The Best Place To Get Coronavirus Updates?
Here’s the worst thing you can do during a pandemic: be misinformed.
Of all the gazillions of articles you’ve read on the coronavirus disease, you’ve probably noticed that two resources are cited most often: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each has a designated section on their site with rolling updates on the spread of the virus, but it can be a lot to take in. Both sites are thorough though, offering information on everything from travel advice to what to do if you think you have the disease. You can even view their stance on how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and children specifically, and who actually is at higher risk of being severely affected by the virus.
If you’re looking for regular updates sent directly to your inbox, sign up for The New York Times’ daily coronavirus newsletter. If Twitter is your preferred news aggregator, Bustle has a great list of accounts to follow.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.
Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., NYC neuropsychologist
Dr. Alex Polyakov, fertility specialist, obstetrician, and epidemiologist
Dr. Edward Marut, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois
Barry Witt, M.D., medical director of WINFertility
This article was originally published on