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Children and summertime activities

How to safeguard your family as pools, parks, other public venues reopen for business
boy floating in pool with water ring

Summer is the long-awaited season for pool time, an afternoon at the movies or a trip to the ice cream shop with friends, family and neighbors. Yet this summer is unlike any before it with a looming uncertainty in truly enjoying those summertime vibes, something that can be especially felt by children. Their school days with classmates were cut short, spring sporting events canceled and general activities held in-person came to an abrupt end. As parks, businesses and venues begin to reopen, so do the questions focused on the health and safety of children during summertime activities.

Alison Pittman, PhD, RN, CPN, CNE, CHSE, clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Nursing, offers evidence-based advice in helping children socialize safely. “As state and local governments open public spaces like swimming pools and other venues, parents should follow expert recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID-19.” These recommendations include:

  • Stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Wash hands frequently, and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others outside your home.
  • Wear masks if within 6 to 12 feet of others, with the exception of water-based activities.
  • If at the pool, make sure to remind children to use the bathroom facilities often and enforce proper handwashing.

Swimming pools are of particular importance, according to Pittman. “Most people think the chlorine and sunlight will kill any germs, including COVID-19. Although this is somewhat true for most germs, we still don’t know how COVID-19 responds in these conditions. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds, especially when those venues are properly operated and disinfected.”

While research is still underway to identify other ways the virus is transmitted, current findings continue to support that COVID-19 is spread through close contact, coughing and sneezing, and poor hand hygiene. Pittman reiterates this is why the above recommendations remain in place and are so important to follow. “Families should also ask pool and venue owners about their cleaning and disinfecting practices,” Pittman said. “The CDC has guidelines readily available for reference on their website both for public places as well as in our own homes.”

You can play a vital role in facilitating positive experiences for all patrons by surveying the area and visiting with staff to assess whether or not guidelines are being followed. “Is there enough soap? Is there plenty of hand sanitizer? Are surfaces disinfected at least daily? Is seating spaced apart? Is shared equipment disinfected between uses? These are all great questions to ask,” Pittman said. Based on the answers provided, you have the opportunity to share validated concerns and determine what is best for you and your family.

Supporting children in learning healthy habits to prevent the spread of COVID-19 starts with your own behaviors. As their caretakers, they are looking up to you, watching your actions and seeking your guidance. Teaching proper hand washing techniques and effective ways to cover a cough or sneeze by modeling those behaviors provides positive reinforcement in a time of uncertainty. Seeing these moments as a chance to discuss their concerns or explain how they are helping others stay healthy through their personal hygiene habits can also offer reassurance.

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