Omicron in Babies – Symptoms to Watch Out for and Tips to Keep Them Safe
Things took a new turn with the onset of a new Covid-19 virus, i.e., Omicron, in India in December 2021. Our attitude towards the Covid-19 virus changed as this new variant came with shocking news. The Omicron variant is a mutated Covid-19 virus and highly transmissible. Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The virus attacks by coming in close contact with the host body of Covid-19.
Adults have a stronger immune system, but that is not the case with newborns and young babies. They are at the stage where their immune system is still developing, and that is why parents need to be highly cautious of their little one’s health. Also, because the government has not authorised any vaccine for children under age 5, it is natural for parents not to worry about their newborns. Let’s take a closer look at the effect of this virus on newborns and the symptoms that we can look out for to take early precautions.
Effect of Omicron on Newborns
Babies under the age of one are highly vulnerable and may contract severe illness with Covid-19 infection compared to older kids, but there is more to learn about this mutated virus. Since the new Omicron variant is observed to cause mild conditions and infants have a low immune system at this age, it is imperative to keep babies away from any chances of infection.
How to Keep Newborns Safe From the Omicron Virus
Newborns are dependent on their parents. Since they are the primary caregivers, parents must know how to keep babies safe against the Omicron strain. There are several ways to protect newborns from the virus. Some of them are as below:
- Parents and primary caregivers should always wear masks when holding, playing, or feeding a newborn. They should also wash their hands frequently before coming in close contact with the baby.
- It is essential for parents and primary caregivers to get fully vaccinated. And even if the parents are vaccinated, the child should also get the necessary flu shots.
- Ventilation should be given importance as there are high chances of the Covid-19 virus spreading in closed spaces. Ensure to ventilate the rooms well where the child spends most of his day.
- If any parents have symptoms like cough, cold, sneezing, tiredness, any respiratory issue, fever, etc., they should stay away from the child until they are completely cured.
- Visits to and from relatives should also be limited because newborns have an immature immune system.
- Mothers with breastfeeding babies should avoid social gatherings and crowded spaces.
Symptoms of the Omicron Variant
As there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron strain, parents need to be on the lookout for abnormal behaviour that may indicate the signs of the virus. Some of the common symptoms of Omicron in newborns are:
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Poor feeding
These signs mentioned above should not be taken lightly and must be checked with the newborn’s paediatrician as soon as the symptoms are detected. Also, it is to note that parents should not follow self-medication as it can be risky for the baby.
Can Omicron Affect a Newborn If the Virus Infects a Family Member?
The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, so parents need to be very careful of the hygiene they maintain around their children. If anyone in the family contracts the infection, those in close contact with the baby should stay away from the infected person as they can be the virus carrier to the baby.
Isolation Precautions for Parents With a Newborn
If both the parents are tested positive for Covid-19 and are under isolation with their newborn baby, they must follow a set of precautions before handling the baby.
- Before handling the baby, parents must wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitiser that has a minimum of 60 per cent alcohol.
- When parents are within six feet of their baby, they must always wear a mask.
- If the baby is fed with expressed milk, the mother should clean her hands with soap and water before touching any equipment and wear a mask while expressing the milk for the baby.
- The pump should be cleaned before and after the pumping session.
If, after ten days of contracting the Covid-19 virus, parents feel asymptomatic and have not had a fever or feverish symptoms, the isolation period will get over.
No strong evidence has been found regarding the transmission of the active Covid-19 virus through breast milk and breastfeeding. So, if a nursing mother becomes Covid positive, she can continue with breast feeding and consult her doctor.
Covid-19 Vaccination in Newborns and Young Children
Currently, there is no Covid-19 vaccine available for newborns or young children below twelve.
The best thing for newborns amidst the Omicron scare is to keep them indoors and avoid social gatherings as much as possible. In case of any symptoms, parents should not waste any time and consult their paediatrician immediately.