Caring for your baby if they get COVID-19

It’s only natural that you would be anxious about your baby getting COVID-19. Thankfully, most children who get it experience only mild cold or flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. Unless a child has underlying health conditions, very few require hospitalisation.

Here, we look at the symptoms and caring for your baby if they get Covid-19, what to do if your little one is experiencing symptoms, how to treat them at home and what to avoid if they test positive, plus some tips to cope with isolating.

Symptoms of COVID-19 

Symptoms might come on very quickly, and last 2-7 days, but recovery from a cough or fatigue might take several weeks. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea,
  • Poor oral intake or dehydration
  • Aches and pains

What to do if your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms

  1. If your child has mild symptoms, get them tested (check your state or territory’s health department website about whether your child should get a PCR test or RAT), and isolate at home until you get the results.
  2. If you are concerned or your child’s symptoms are getting worse, seek medical attention. Phone your GP for a telehealth appointment or the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.
  3. If your baby is very unwell, see a doctor urgently if they’re working hard to breathe, they’re difficult to rouse or very sleepy, confused, they’re showing signs of dehydration, won’t drink fluids or keep them down, have pain or swelling in their legs, or a persistent fever lasting more than 3 days.
  4. If your baby is under 3 months of age with a fever, call an ambulance or take them to the hospital immediately. You don’t need to phone ahead, although it’s preferable.

How to treat your baby’s symptoms at home

Currently, there is no specific treatment for the virus. If your baby has symptoms, you can treat them as you would if they had a cold or flu:

  • Encourage fluids. Offer breastmilk or formula on demand. Offer regular sips of water for bubs over 6 months.
  • Encourage rest. Encourage naps whenever they look tired. Try not to stress if they won’t sleep anywhere but on you or with you. They need lots of comfort and reassurance. If they struggle to sleep, drop any expectations, and do whatever works.
  • Offer pain relief. Give your baby paracetamol and ibuprofen, according to instructions on the packet. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about giving them any medication, such as how often and when to. Ibuprofen is best taken with food and paracetamol can be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Offer small meals. If your baby is on solids, they might have a reduced appetite while they’re unwell. Offer small amounts of food frequently, and never force them to eat.
  • Unblock their stuffy nose. Try using a saline nasal spray or drops to help with any congestion. Some parents use humidifiers, but there is no evidence that they work and they pose their own risks (burns and the problems if they’re not cleaned properly).
  • Avoid cough medicines. Cough medicines don’t help with irritated windpipes or excess mucus.
  • Avoid decongestants. Anything like Sudafed, Duro-tuss, Dimetapp, Demazin, and Benadryl all have negative side effects and don’t help with COVID-19.

Tips to cope with isolation 

Sometimes only one family member gets the virus, but it’s important for the whole family to be tested. Consult your state or territory’s health service to check the requirements for isolation periods. They will also tell you what other household members need to do.

Here are some tips to help everyone cope:

  1. Ensure you and your child have some daily physical activity. This could be a home workout for you or a play on the grass in your backyard for bub.
  2. Try to loosely stick to your usual routine for meals and sleep, but don’t expect it will always happen. It’s more to help you all feel a sense of security and familiarity. You won’t be starting any bad habits if you just do what you can for now, particularly if you’re also unwell.
  3. You might feel better showering each morning, and changing out of your pyjamas, and dressing your baby as well.
  4. Reduce your household tasks. Get nourishing meals delivered if you don’t feel up to cooking or your bub has become a velcro baby and you’re not able to get much else done.
  5. There’s no need to socially isolate yourself. Keep in touch with friends and family. Seek professional advice and emotional support for your own health and wellbeing. Here we have a list of free resources that you can access from home, plus some more tips on how you can cope: Support for new parents to cope in a pandemic.
  6. Check out our playtime tips and ideas:


Pregnancy, Birth & Baby

Raising Children Network

Royal Children’s Hospital

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