A mom in South Carolina is sharing a message to other parents after her 7-month-old son was diagnosed with COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus.
Children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but Courtney Doster, a mom of three, wants other parents to know it is possible for their children to get the virus.
Doster's 7-month-old son Emmett tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17. She and her husband, the parents of three children, took their son, their youngest child, to the hospital after his fever spiked to over 104 degrees.
"Emmett started showing signs last Monday of a sickness," Doster told "Good Morning America." "He woke up from his nap and he was warm."
"I checked his temperature and it was a low-grade fever to begin with, and pretty quickly it started to climb to 103," she said. "We got on the phone with his pediatrician and ... we finally got the call to go get tested for urgent care."
"And that’s where he was swabbed for [COVID-19], flu, RSV and they also did chest X-rays and that confirmed pneumonia," Doster said. "They sent us home and we got the positive [COVID-19] results in 24 hours."
Doster says her mother, Emmett's grandmother, has also been diagnosed with COVID-19. The family was exposed prior to her knowing she had the virus, according to Doster.
"He had no other signs of being sick," she said of Emmett, who has been recovering at home since his diagnosis. "He wasn’t whiny or fussy and that’s what is really scary -- we didn’t even realize he was having these types of symptoms."
Doster, her husband, Emmett, and his two siblings, ages 2 and 4, are quarantining at home for 14 days, under a legal contract with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
The rest of the family is not showing symptoms of coronavirus but Doster remains concerned. Since symptoms can develop several days after initial exposure, she has been monitoring her family members closely.
"We’re keeping an eye on everyone, checking their fevers, listening to them, making sure they show no signs of sicknesses," Doster said. "So far so good."
The number of U.S. cases of coronavirus has topped 35,000, spanning across every state as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
"It’s very scary -- the unknowns, the what if’s -- so we just want parents to take this seriously," said Doster. "Keep your babies at home. Wash your hands. It’s hard to keep their little hands out of their mouths, but we encourage you to keep very close eye on them and their symptoms."
What experts want parents to know
The CDC has said in recent days that more young people than initially thought are getting seriously ill due to coronavirus, although zero patients under the age of 19 in the U.S. have died from the virus.
In children, COVID-19 is likely to present as either asymptomatic or be indistinguishable from a regular, common cold or influenza, according to Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado who specializes in infectious diseases and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Infectious Diseases.
"This virus does seem to be able to cause significant disease in children but [is] not dramatically different from other typical, common childhood infections," he told "GMA." "There are some small percentages of children, based on what we’re seeing in other countries, that do get sick and require hospitalization, but that is really not much different, at least at this point, than other typical respiratory viruses."
O'Leary pointed out that the situation is rapidly changing as more and more information is collected.
"In a big study out of China that came out of last week, there was a higher risk of hospitalization for kids [ages] zero to 1," he said. "But that is very similar to what see with other respiratory viruses."
The most important thing parents can do is practice is social distancing, including keeping a six-feet distance from other people.
For kids, that means no playdates with friends, no visits to public places like libraries and no socializing with elderly family members, according to O'Leary, who explained, "it’s best to really be as strict as possible with other interactions."
If your child is displaying mild symptoms of COVID-19, call your pediatrician first instead of taking the child to the hospital or doctor's office, recommends O'Leary. Most kids will not need to be tested.
"If your child has mild to moderate symptoms, it’s better not to take them in and certainly not to take them in to get tested because they probably won’t be," said O'Leary.
And if your child is sick, make sure to keep your home clean and sanitized, according to O'Leary. He noted that "just because one person in the house has [COVID-19], doesn't meant that everyone will get it."
"People are crafting their own homemade face masks and that may decrease the transmission within the house. We don’t know for sure but it’s not going to hurt," he said, adding that parents should also do "environmental cleaning."
"We don’t know the extent that it contributes to transmission, but we know that this virus can live on lots of different sources for at least several hours," O'Leary said. "So do a good job cleaning all the high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and bathroom fixtures."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also offers these tips for parents on its HealthyChildren.org website.
1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Look for one that is 60% or higher alcohol-based.
2. Reduce close contact with others by practicing social distancing. This means staying home as much as possible and avoiding public places where close contact with others is likely.
3. Keep your kids away from others who are sick or keep them home if they are ill.
4. Teach kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue (make sure to throw it away after each use!) or to cough and sneeze into their arm or elbow, not their hands.
5. Clean and disinfect your home as usual using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes.
6. Wash stuffed animals or other plush toys, following manufacturers' instructions in the warmest water possible and dry them completely.
7. Avoid touching your face; teach your children to do the same.
8. Avoid travel to highly infected areas.
9. Follow local and state guidance on travel restrictions.