How can you and your family enjoy summer activities during the COVID-19 pandemic? Our friends at Missouri Baptist weigh in!
This post is sponsored by our partner Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
What a year this has been so far! We are experiencing a pandemic unlike anything we have ever seen before. Times like these shine a spotlight on the essential things we should appreciate even more in life: family, friendship, faith, community, and health.
As many regions are working to develop strategies to reopen our communities safely, the little ones in the family are looking forward to spending their summer in the sun. However, it’s important to realize that the current COVID-19 situation in many regions hasn’t settled down as quickly as we had hoped.
Simple measures, such as frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask, remain critical tools to keep ourselves and each other safe. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) frequently updates its COVID-19 guidelines, and it’s crucial for all of us to stay up to date on the latest CDC and local health expert recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/
If you have other questions, it’s important to call your family pediatrician.
What are your recommendations for summer activities?
Many indoor activities are fun! A quick search on the internet has many great ideas — crafts, science projects, game nights, silly dance breaks, and more. We can even make hand-washing or not touching our faces with dirty hands into fun family competitions. At the same time, we also need to help our young ones remain socially connected to our families and friends by sending picture cards, making phone calls, and having digital chats.
Are outdoor gatherings safer than indoor events?
Small gatherings among friends and families are great, either outdoors or indoors. Ventilation is usually better outdoors, but common sense always applies. Some outdoor activities, like contact sports, may not give us the social distancing needed even in small groups. Wearing a mask while playing sports may not be feasible. Walking, jogging, or biking in the neighborhood, in parks, or in outdoor recreational areas is great. However, pay more attention when using public facilities and playgrounds and avoid drinking from shared fountains. And always remember the sunscreen!
What are some things a family should avoid?
In general, avoid crowded events and large gatherings indoors or outdoors when safe distancing isn’t feasible. Also, be extra careful visiting elderly folks and people with a weak immune system, as they are certainly at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 and getting very sick if they do. Unfortunately, certain errands like grocery shopping may not need to be a family event these days. The public transportation systems and airlines are working hard to implement safety measures, but watch out for frequently touched areas and carry portable hand sanitizers or wipes, or consider taking a family car ride to your destination. Many restaurants are also working hard to find safe ways to serve our favorite dishes. Sitting outdoors may be enjoyable or visit restaurants with proper table distancing. Again, watch out for frequently touched surfaces such as menus and restroom/door handles. Our little ones may need some reminders about hand-hygiene from time to time.
Do the recommendations change based on the child’s age?
Keeping hands clean and having proper social distancing are somewhat easy to practice, but wearing a mask will undoubtedly be more difficult for younger children (children younger than two years of age should not wear masks). Adults will have to be proactive in providing safe distancing for our very little ones. Taking them out in a stroller or a wagon may be a good option.
Besides COVID-19, are there other things a new family should be aware of?
Other safety precautions still apply, even though so much of our attention is on COVID-19. Applying sunscreen and staying well-hydrated are still important when going out in the sun. Don’t leave your children alone in the car. Watch out for water safety and never leave your children unattended near any bodies of water. Also, keep up with routine health visits with your pediatrician and be sure to ask about the safety measures they’re implementing in their office. And, as my personal plea and one from many of my pediatric colleagues, trampolines can be very dangerous if not used properly and supervised by adults. Also, kids don’t belong on an ATV.
How important is it for a family to wear masks when out in public?
Residents of St. Louis and St. Louis County, over the age of 9, are required to wear a face mask when inside businesses and other public accommodations, and outside when social distancing isn’t possible. I believe wearing a mask in public, especially when social distancing isn’t feasible, is the most critical step in getting us through this pandemic.
If a child younger than two cannot wear a mask, what other precautions do you recommend?
Adults will have to be proactive. Avoid taking young children to crowded areas. Bring them in a stroller or a wagon and help them with hand-washing. Avoid unnecessary trips and visitors, especially ones who may be sick. An infant in a baby carrier may benefit from having a lightweight cloth or blanket draped over the carrier. And, of course, an infant should always be monitored, and care taken to ensure he or she can breathe comfortably.
Any advice you would want to share with new parents?
Enjoy the new parenthood! Protecting young ones from harm is natural to being parents — whether from COVID-19 or other dangers. YOU’VE GOT THIS! We are all learning more and more about COVID-19 each day, so stay updated from reliable sources such as health experts, the CDC, and your pediatric providers. We may be exploring new ways to stay connected to one another — but, together, we will find a way to get to the other side.
Information provided by:
Steve Liao, MD, MSCI
Chief of Pediatrics, Missouri Baptist Medical Center
Medical Director, Missouri Baptist Medical Center NICU
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine