Nova Scotia

Parents of babies sick with COVID-19 need more support, says Halifax mom

Stephanie Norman's eight-month-old son recently tested positive for COVID-19 and developed intense symptoms. She brought him to the IWK on Monday and said there were at least 10 other families there waiting for COVID-19 care.

Stephanie Norman had to take her son to the IWK ER after he developed intense symptoms

Stephanie Norman with her son, River. River was taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 and developing worrisome symptoms. Norman says more infant-specific information on treatment should be available for parents. (Submitted by Stephanie Norman)

A Halifax mom is calling for more support and information for parents whose young children have COVID-19 after taking her infant to the IWK Health Centre for treatment Monday.

Stephanie Norman said her eight-month-old son, River, began developing symptoms over the weekend. She thought his fever was due to teething, but a rapid test confirmed he had COVID-19. She decided to take him to hospital once his symptoms — including congestion, cough and a febrile seizure — got worse.

Once there, Norman said the hospital told her that many young children have been coming through its doors and that her family was "not alone."

"They told me that ... while the babies are not staying there overnight, they're treating a lot of babies for the same issues, and that babies just seem to be having a hard time on Day 1 of COVID," Norman said.

Norman noted there were at least 10 other families in the designated COVID-19 area waiting for care. She said all the kids appeared to be under two years old and very sick. 

Norman praised the nurses who were working that day, but said she could tell they were short-staffed. She said it took six hours to be seen by a doctor.

Norman and River at the IWK on Monday. (Submitted by Stephanie Norman)

On Wednesday, the IWK reported 110 of its staff were off sick with COVID-19 and another 50 were isolating. The IWK said there are fewer than five patients in hospital with COVID-19.

Dr. Kirstin Weerdenburg, a pediatric emergency doctor at the IWK, said the hospital is seeing more patients than usual with COVID-19.

"I think that's just a reflection of how much more COVID we're seeing in the community," she said. "There are more adults that have it, but as a result, you know, the children are also getting it."

In addition to COVID-19, the hospital is seeing cases of influenza and other viruses. 

Norman said the doctor spent about an hour with River and told her she was right to bring her son to the hospital.

Infant-specific instruction needed

"Babies are way sicker than people are realizing ... I feel that our community is not being given the tools to be equipped with to know these things," said Norman.

"There's a lot of information out there for what to do if you're sick as an adult ... but when you report an infant, there's nothing different and it's a completely different ballgame."

More infant-specific care instructions and a list of signs to watch out for would have been helpful, Norman said. 

"I feel like we have been very left out and forgotten, and I don't feel like anyone has the backs of new parents right now," Norman said. 

Symptoms to watch out for

Weerdenburg said if a child three months or younger with COVID-19 has a fever or any other "worrying symptoms," such as trouble breathing, they should be taken to the hospital.

Another concerning symptom would be dehydration. Signs of this include prolonged periods of dry diapers, dry lips, dry mouth and no tears when crying.

Seizures, like the one Norman's son experienced, is another symptom that would warrant a visit to the ER.

Weerdenburg said if parents are really worried about their COVID-19 positive child, they can bring them to the emergency department to get checked out.

"There's nothing wrong with it if someone's worried about their child's condition," she said.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.