Coronavirus and Babies: What You Need to Know

Preventing Coronavirus In Babies With A Healthy Immune System

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominating the headlines, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — especially as a new parent.

Not only do you have to stay on top of feeding, sleeping and pooping schedules, you now have to consider how to keep your baby and entire family (and yes, that includes you) safe from a new virus, the world is just starting to understand.

What is your baby’s real Coronavirus risk?

Luckily, Coronavirus In Babies Appears Less Severe Than In Adults

We have some reassuring news. 

To date, cases of Coronavirus in babies have manifested as significantly less severe versus older populations. According to the CDC, COVID-19 afflicted babies generally have mild, cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, runny nose and a dry cough.1 

In fact, a robust review of tens of thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China, revealed that there were no deaths under age 10.2  This seems to indicate that babies with coronavirus have a much stronger defense than the rest of the population. So while the virus is a serious issue, you should take some comfort in knowing that your baby will probably fare better than most in your household, even if their immune system is still developing. Still, any measure to prevent coronavirus exposure for you and your baby should be taken, such as hand washing and avoiding large crowds.

While scientists are still determining why this is the case, one theory is that a child’s less mature immune system is actually an advantage here. An adult’s immune system has decades of experience identifying and fighting infections. This programming helps the immune system quickly mount a robust defense—but sometimes this inflammatory response is too much.3

What Can You Do? 

Though there’s a lot on your baby’s side,  it’s still important to be smart during this time to minimize infection for you and your entire family. (The most at risk populations are those over 65, especially those with certain underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or a history of smoking.) 

10 Things To Do To Minimize Your Risk:

  • Wash you and your kids’ hands, FREQUENTLY with soap and water. Do it for at least 20 seconds. Sing Happy Birthday, sing your favorite Billie Eilish, recite lines from the Declaration of Independence. We don’t care how you do it, just commit to really washing your hands and getting those less obvious spots like under your nails. Make washing your hands a habit, especially before you eat and anytime you enter your home, especially after spending time in public spaces. If you need a primer, here you go.
  • Keep your hands off your face. Washing your hands is one of the effective ways to prevent infection — and while you’re at it please avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, nose. 
  • If you can’t wash, at least use some hand sanitizer – and make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol. Keep some sanitizer in your bag, or in your car, while you’re on the go and may not have easy access to a sink. 
  • Keep your distance. The value of physical distancing is real. Try to maintain 6 feet of distance between you and other people, where possible. Try to avoid crowded areas, like packed subway cars or concerts, if possible. 
  • Please cover your cough/sneezes, using a disposable tissue when possible. Sneeze away from people if you can. 
  • Regularly disinfect personal electronics and other “high-touch” surfaces such as door knobs. Washing your hands will do very little, if you are still scrolling on a dirty phone. Apple recommends using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, more info here.
  • Sick? Stay home. If you’re sick, or if anyone in your home is sick, keep them home, especially if you suspect that you or your family member may have COVID-19 (symptoms include cough, fever). Call your healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care, your provider may need to take special precautions before you arrive. When in doubt, just call your doctor (or your child’s doctor). 
  • In regards to face masks, you should wear one if you suspect you are infected to prevent spreading the infection to others. You can also wear n95 or above respirators if you are caring for or will be in close proximity of someone who may be infected, but it’s important to make sure these are fitted to your face properly, with a tight seal. 
  • Try to get as much sleep as possible. Parents tend to get the short end of the stick here, but if you can, get those extra Z’s. Your body and your immune system needs it to properly fight off infections.
  • Now is the time for new year resolutions… Don’t smoke. Eat a nutritious diet high in vegetables and fruits (see below), exercise regularly, and try to keep stress at a minimum. Essentially check-off all the things you promised you would do on January 1st. 

Don’t Forget About Nutrition

During these times, nutrition is more important than ever in lowering your baby’s coronavirus infection risk. It’s important that you and your baby eat well during this time, to ensure the body has all the tools necessary to keep infections at bay or shorten any possible infection. Focus on real foods with immunity-boosting properties. Here are some of the key nutrients and where you can find them:

ZINC 

Zinc is a key nutrient for the immune system, it’s also one of the essential minerals needed to make proteins and DNA in the body. Your body can’t produce or store it, so you need to get it from food. A zinc deficiency is correlated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections among children and the elderly.5

Children from 7 months to 3 years of age, need about 3 mg of Zinc per day.4 

Where to find it: Beans, nuts, red meat, oysters are all excellent sources. 

SELENIUM

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system and liver function. It has been shown to lower inflammation by lowering oxidative stress and inhibiting the replication of viruses.9

Children 1 to 3 years of age should have about 20 micrograms per day. 

Where to find it: Grains, garlic, broccoli, nuts, especially brazil nuts, walnuts, fish, beef

IRON

Is one of the most critical nutrients for development. You’ve probably noticed that we often wax poetic about iron’s role in neural development. But it’s also necessary for biochemical reactions for your baby’s immune cells and blood production.6

From 7 to 12 months, babies are recommended to have 11mg of iron per day. From 1 to 3 years, the recommended daily amount is 7mg.

Where to find it: White beans, lentils, spinach (other dark leafy greens), organ meats.

VITAMIN A 

Beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, helps regulate cellular immune responses. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Where to find it: Carrots, apricot, mangoes, spinach, cantaloupe

VITAMIN C 

Well, no surprises here. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is well known for its role in supporting the immune system and cellular function. During infections, vitamin C levels in plasma decreases, as the body uses it to fight infections, which is why it’s important to keep the vitamin C flowing during colds. Bonus: it also helps with the absorption of iron, see above. As an antioxidant it helps neutralize free radicals in the body, helping to keep inflammation in check. Vitamin C should be a part of any parent or caregivers plan for their babies’ coronavirus risk prevention.

Other important antioxidants include glutathione, selenium, and vitamin E.

Where to find it: oranges or insert your favorite citrus fruit, kiwis, bell peppers, broccoli. 

You’ll find a healthy dose of vitamin C in our Mango Chia Pudding and Kiwi Chia Pudding. 

VITAMIN E 

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant. It’s also critical for the normal function of immune cells. T- and B-cell functions are impaired when you don’t have enough vitamin E in your diet. 10

Where to find it: Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, salmon, kiwi. 

Further Reading

Need some ideas for activities in the home? We got you covered with our list of stay-at-home ideas for babies and toddlers.

Additional Resources

  1. “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and ChildrenPage.”  National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases, 1 March 1, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html
  2.  Wu Z, McGoogan JM. Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72 314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. JAMA. Published online February 24, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2648
  3. Tisoncik, Jennifer R et al. “Into the eye of the cytokine storm.” Microbiology and molecular biology reviews : MMBR vol. 76,1 (2012): 16-32. doi:10.1128/MMBR.05015-11
  4. “Zinc.” Office of Dietary Supplements, 19 December 2019, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
  5. Barnett, Junaidah B et al. “Low zinc status: a new risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly?.” Nutrition reviews vol. 68,1 (2010): 30-7. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00253.x
  6. Cherayil, Bobby J. “The role of iron in the immune response to bacterial infection.” Immunologic research vol. 50,1 (2011): 1-9. doi:10.1007/s12026-010-8199-1
  7. Sgarbanti, Rossella et al. “Intracellular redox state as target for anti-influenza therapy: are antioxidants always effective?.” Current topics in medicinal chemistry vol. 14,22 (2014): 2529-41. doi:10.2174/1568026614666141203125211
  8. “Iron needs of babies and children.” Paediatrics & child health vol. 12,4 (2007): 333-6. doi:10.1093/pch/12.4.333
  9. Hoffmann, Peter R, and Marla J Berry. “The influence of selenium on immune responses.” Molecular nutrition & food research vol. 52,11 (2008): 1273-80. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700330
  10. Lee, Ga Young, and Sung Nim Han. “The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity.” Nutrients vol. 10,11 1614. 1 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10111614

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