How to protect your baby from COVID-19 while in the NICU

September 10, 2020

If your baby is sick and needs to be cared for in the neonatal
intensive care unit (NICU), you may be even more worried than usual because of
the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here are some steps you can take to
help keep your baby safe while in the NICU.

The NICU is a unit in a hospital that provides around-the-clock care to sick or preterm babies. At this time, experts don’t know if babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than other babies. You may feel scared and confused about your baby’s condition. It’s OK to feel like you do. The health care providers working in the NICU have special training and equipment to give your baby the best possible care. They are taking safety measures like wearing masks, gowns, face shields and gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Can you visit your baby in the NICU during the COVID-19

Due to increased infection control protocols, many hospitals
need to limit the number of visitors and family members allowed in the NICU at
this time. Family presence may be limited to parents, guardians or partners.
You may only be allowed to have one person be present with your baby at a time,
while he is in the NICU. Some hospitals are limiting this to be the same person
during the entire NICU stay. Other hospitals allow parents to take turns
staying with their baby on a schedule, such as every 12 or 24 hours. Other
safety precautions may include:

  • Taking the temperature and asking patients and family
    members questions about their possible exposure to coronavirus before entering
    the NICU
  • Limiting belongings to one small bag
  • Not allowing packages, gifts or food on the unit
  • Requiring you and other visitors to wear masks
    or face coverings while in the hospital

Check with your hospital to find out exactly what parent and
family presence guidelines are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can you protect your baby from COVID-19 in the NICU?

Washing your hands is the best way to protect your baby from
infection. If you spend time with your baby in the NICU, be sure to wash your
hands carefully. Many hospitals also recommend that you:

  • Consider keeping your nails short and natural
    while your baby is in the NICU. Fake nails, long nails or nails with chipped
    polish carry more germs than short, natural nails.
  • Take off your jacket or coat and hang it on the
    coat rack or hooks near the scrub sinks.
  • Roll up your sleeves to above your elbows.
  • Take off any watches, rings, and jewelry and
    store them safely.
  • Use germ-fighting soap to wash from your
    fingertips to your elbows, following the NICU specific policies for handwashing.
    Pay special attention to the area around and under your fingernails.
  • Dry your hands well with paper towels after
  • Avoid placing anything over your clean arms
    after washing. If you carry your or your baby’s items to your baby’s space, be
    sure to wash your hands again before touching your baby. Wash your hands again
    after touching your face or eyes or after changing your baby’s diaper.

What if you are diagnosed with COVID-19?

Parents with COVID-19 should follow CDC guidelines to limit
the spread of COVID-19. These guidelines state that someone diagnosed with
COVID-19 should not visit babies in the NICU until:

  • No fever for at least 3 days (72 hours) without
    taking fever-reducing medicine like Tylenol
  • Cough has improved
  • Two COVID-19 tests confirmed negative results at
    least 24 hours apart

Your hospital may have additional policies and procedures to
follow. Check with your hospital to find out exactly what parent presence
guidelines are in place for parents who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Last updated August 25, 2020