Tiny innovations meant to protect babies from coronavirus are adorable — but experts say we should think twice before celebrating them.
The internet is rich with photos and stories of smart and creative people trying to keep children safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. One, a dad in China, developed a “safety pod” to protect his his two-month-old baby from potential sneezes or other droplets.
Cao Junjie of Shanhai adapted a cat carrier to fit his child, he told Reuters. It seals up, protecting the baby, and he can gauge the concentration of carbon dioxide through an air-quality monitor.
It’s an impressive feat, and a very cute one. But before you go ahead and contact Cao for your own — something many people have apparently done — listen to the experts who aren’t sure it’s the best option.
“If there’s a malfunction, I worry about the child’s air supply,” Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician in Madison, Wisconsin, told Business Insider. He also told the outlet that the device reduces the child’s ability to look at the world around them, which can be important for development.
In Thailand, meanwhile, nurses at Praram 9 Hospital in Bangkok fashioned protective face shields for two newborn babies last week — but they want people to know that this isn’t the new norm.
As the babies’ mother was preparing to be discharged from the hospital after giving birth to twins, she explained to nurses that she didn’t have access to a car and would have to use a can or public transit to get home.
“The nurses worried about the babies’ well-being and they handcrafted the face shields,” the hospital told Time Magazine in a statement. “The face shields were just for a short-term protection.”
In a Facebook post, Praram 9 reiterated that this was a “unique case.” And BBC Thai explained that the face shields are a short-term solution, and that the masks are not intended to be worn for long periods of time.
What to do instead
Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told Business Insider it makes more sense for families to interact closely with one another and keep the outside world at bay than to try to go out using protective measures.
“If the family treats themselves like a pod or a unit, it allows for all the warm family interactions and the sense of security for children,” she said.
Health Canada has said children above the age of two can wear masks when they’re out in public places where physical distancing isn’t possible.
But masks aren’t recommended for younger kids because their airways are smaller, pediatric hospitalist Dr. Jamie Macklin told Today. That makes breathing through a mask harder, and it can increase their risk of suffocation.
It was previously believed that babies and young kids couldn’t get the virus. We now know that’s not true, but it does seem like young children are not particularly at risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And research has shown so far that symptoms are milder in children than adults.
The bigger risk is that children are asymptomatic carriers of the virus, family doctor Dr. Deborah Gilboa told Today. So, that brings us back to the same advice we’ve all heard hundreds of times at this point: babies and older kids should avoid big crowds, stay home as much as possible, stay away from sick people, and regularly wash their hands.
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