Premature babies and COVID-19: What we know

At this moment, we have limited information about how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may affect premature babies. We are still learning how COVID-19 affects babies and children.

A premature baby is one who is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may not be fully developed at birth. They may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. Some may have breathing problems because their lungs are not fully developed.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 for people of all ages include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Mild symptoms to severe illness can appear within 2-14 days of being infected. Recent data shows that compared to adults, babies and children generally have less severe COVID-19 symptoms. However, babies less than one year old are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 than older children.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. In general, babies and children with COVID-19 may have mild symptoms. Some may not have any symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms for babies include:

  • Fever or a fluctuating temperature
  • Cough
  • Breathing problems
  • Lack of activity
  • Feeding issues

If your baby has been around someone with COVID-19 or has symptoms of the disease, contact your health care provider immediately. ​​​​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 avoid passing COVID-19 to your baby?

If you have or think you may have COVID-19, your provider may suggest that you stay in a separate room from your baby until the risk of spreading the disease has passed. If you and your baby are able to be together, take steps to decrease the risk of passing the infection to your baby:

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby.
  • Wear a face mask while breastfeeding.
  • Wash your hands before touching any breast pump or bottle parts.
  • Clean all pump and bottle parts after use.
  • Consider having someone who is not sick feed your breast milk to your baby after you pump.
  • Never cover your baby’s face. Covering your baby’s face increases the risk of suffocation. 

How do you know if your baby has COVID-19?

Experts don’t know if babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than other children. Some studies show that newborns may become infected with COVID-19 after close contact with someone with the virus or someone who has the virus but has no symptoms.

Your baby may be diagnosed with COVID-19 if he has:

  • At least one of the symptoms listed above
  • An abnormal chest X-ray
  • Been around someone with COVID-19

To learn more visit marchofdimes.org/covid19

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