To help parents better understand COVID-19, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions with accompanying answers by UNICEF, WHO and other experts on the matter.
The most recent strain of the Coronavirus infection, now known as COVID-19, is grouped together with the same family of viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of the common cold.
And since it is an outbreak of its own, questions begin to arise among parents along with the growing anxiety about the spread of the virus here and abroad.
To help parents better understand COVID-19, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions in theAsianparent Community, with accompanying answers by UNICEF, WHO and other experts on the matter.
Should parents fear the Coronavirus infection COVID-19?
Spread through direct contact, respiratory droplets like coughing and sneezing, and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, the Coronavirus infection has terrorised parents all across the country with its fast-increasing rates.
However, in more comforting news although it is definitely possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, children seem to be escaping the worst of it with no reported fatalities.
The virus has claimed lives overseas—so far mainly among older people with pre-existing medical conditions. At home, thankfully, we have yet to see a fatality.
It is not exactly known why the virus has been kind to the group of society that you would think is most susceptible to contracting it, but according to a recent interview with an expert in the field, it may be because of differences in the immune responses of children as compared to adults. Children generally have a more robust immune system and so recover faster, even if infected.
In fact, one of the fastest recoveries from COVID-19 in Singapore is the case of a 1-year-old baby who was discharged from the hospital just two days after testing positive for the infection.
But this is no reason at all for parents to be complacent in terms of keeping their kids safe from the virus.
Can pregnant women infected with COVID-19 transmit the virus to her unborn baby?
According to a study performed on 9 women in Wuhan, China, it has been reported that the infection does not seem to be naturally passed on from pregnant women to fetuses during pregnancy. The study reports that amniotic fluid, breastmilk and cord blood, do not seem to be automatic transmission routes for the virus.
Although a case of a newborn baby testing positive of the virus just 30 hours after birth was reported in China in earlier February, experts say there isn’t proof that a mother-to-baby transmission in-utero is definite.
However, it is not yet known how the virus affects early pregnancy, as the study took into account women who were all in the third trimester of their pregnancies.
If a pregnant woman has contracted the coronavirus infection, the same measures, medical management and care as for anyone who tests positive with COVID-19 will be provided. She will also be closely monitored during the whole course of the pregnancy.
Can you breastfeed if you contract the Coronavirus infection?
Taking into account the benefits of breastfeeding and that breastmilk is a very insignificant route of transmission in other similar respiratory illnesses, the UNICEF said mothers “can continue breastfeeding their children while applying all the necessary precautions” to avoid transmission of the illness.
This includes wearing a mask when you are in close contact with the child – even during feeding, washing hands before and after contact with the child/mother, and disinfecting surfaces that have been exposed.
In the event that a mother is too ill to breastfeed because of the COVID-19 infection, she should be encouraged to express milk, while following the same infection prevention methods and feed her child using a clean cup, spoon, or bottle. If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching the pump or bottle parts, and clean/disinfect pump parts thoroughly after use.
Should I keep my child home?
If there hasn’t been a public health advisory or a notice from the child’s school regarding the closure of the school, it is best to keep your child in class as long as he/she isn’t displaying symptoms such as a fever or cough.
In fact, this applies to most day-to-day activities such as attending birthday parties and playing outdoors. In an address to the public on 8 February, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to “stay calm, and carry on with our lives.”
But it is not without reminders to take necessary precautions to keep your family safe from the virus.
Here are a few health and safety tips to keep in mind:
1. Practice regular hand-washing especially after travel, being outdoors, using public transport, and before meals. Speak to your children about the importance of frequent hand-washing for a period of 20 seconds or more, washing all areas of their hands and rubbing their fingernails, and to always use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
2. Advice your family to avoid touching their faces with their hands, in particular their eyes, noses or mouths. This is especially important if their hands have not been washed.
3. Wear medical masks in the event of respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, and dispose of it responsibly. It is not necessary to wear a mask if you are not ill. Visit the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breathe. It would be advisable to inform the doctor’s office ahead of your visit.
4. Avoid close contact with anyone presenting cold or flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or a fever, and always sneeze into a tissue or a flexed elbow.
5. Advice your children to avoid sharing food with their classmates during recess, to avoid the spread of flu and other infections, during peak flu season.
6. Insist that your family use separate serving utensils during parties and other mass-scale events, and avoid dipping their cutlery into the food to serve themselves.
With enhanced hand-washing practices and observing good hygiene, we hope your family stays safe from this dreaded virus.