What do we know about COVID-19 in babies?

September 3, 2020

We are still learning how COVID-19 affects babies. Research shows that compared with adults, symptoms of COVID-19 are less severe in babies and children. But some data shows that babies age 1 and under are at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 than older children. This may be because:

  • A baby’s immune system is still developing. Your immune system protects your body from infection.
  • Babies have smaller airways for breathing, so they may be more likely to have breathing problems with a respiratory virus like COVID-19.

Babies who have other medical conditions or who are premature may be more likely to have serious illness from COVID-19. A premature baby is a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

How common is COVID-19 in babies?

COVID-19 in babies seems to be uncommon. A July report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association shows that less than 1 in 10 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in babies and children. Fewer than 9 percent of these babies and children with COVID-19 needed hospitalization.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 in babies?

We are still learning about symptoms of COVID-19 in babies. Many babies with COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may include:

  • Fever
  • Lack of activity
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or breathing problems
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeding issues

How do babies get COVID-19?

It’s not clear whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby. Early research suggested that babies born to mothers who were infected with the virus did not test positive for COVID-19. But more recent data published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) and other journals suggests that transmission during pregnancy may be possible.

After birth, a newborn can get COVID-19 by being in close contact with an infected person. This includes the baby’s mom or other caregivers.

What should you do if your baby has COVID-19 symptoms?

If your baby has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been around someone with COVID-19, call her health care provider right away. ​​​​Get emergency medical care if your baby:

  • Seems confused or won’t wake up
  • Looks blue around the nose, lips or on the skin
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Can’t keep liquids down

How can you protect your baby from COVID-19?

Here are some steps to help protect your baby from infections like COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Clean and disinfect objects you touch regularly.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice social distancing. This means staying home when you can, and keeping at least 6 feet distance from others.
  • When you’re around others, wear a cloth face cover or a facemask over your nose and mouth. Babies and children age 2 should not wear a face mask.
  • Keep up with your baby’s well visits and vaccines. This is an important part of protecting your baby’s health.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how to keep your baby healthy during the pandemic.

Breast milk also can protect your baby from infections and illness. Breast milk contains antibodies, which are cells in the body that fight off infection. In general, breastfed babies have fewer health problems than babies who don’t breastfeed. Learn more about COVID-19.