The weather is warming up. Parents are in search of activities to keep both their kids and themselves sane. Is the swimming pool a safe option?
As states continue to reopen and restrictions are lifted, I have been getting many questions from my young patients’ families on how to handle summer activities. Many are unsure about what they can and cannot do.
As a pediatrician, however, my concern is that children have a hard time being socially distant. They tend to gather with friends and family when in a swimming pool, not necessarily maintaining 6 feet of separation. They may cough or sneeze when swimming, potentially transmitting viral particles to those within 6 feet.
My advice to parents is to proceed with caution. First, check your local guidelines because each municipality may have different recommendations based on disease activity. Next, if your community does allow for pools to be open, here are some things to consider:
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- Location – outdoor pools are safer than indoor pools due to better ventilation.
- Type – a backyard pool shared with one other family is safer than large public pools.
- Time – it’s better to go to public pools earlier in the day or later in the afternoon when crowds are likely to be smaller.
- Age of your children – Will they be able to remain socially distant from other children if you are at a public pool? Do they understand why it’s important to keep distance?
- Prevalence of COVID-19 in your area – higher prevalence in your area increases the risk of doing anything outside of your home.
If you do choose to go to the pool this summer here are some safety tips:
- Bring your own chairs if you can. If not, use antibacterial wipes on any surface before using.
- Maintain physical distance of 6 feet from non-family members as much as possible, both in the water and out of it.
- Avoid using community pool toys and floats. Bring your own and clean them with antibacterial wipes.
- Bring hand sanitizer and use it before eating and before applying sunscreen, especially if you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid snacking if you can while at the pool. If you do choose to eat, it’s better to bring your own food and wash or sanitize hands prior to eating.
- Avoid large crowds and keep trips short to minimize exposure to non-family members as much as possible.
- Wear face masks when you are not able to maintain social distancing (such as in public restrooms, locker rooms, etc.).
- Face coverings should not be worn in the water.
- And last but not least – don’t forget the sunscreen. It won’t protect you from COVID-19, but it will protect your skin from the most common form of cancer in this country.
If you have a child with special needs or who is immunocompromised, you may decide not to risk an outing, even with all the cautions described. Follow your instincts and make educated decisions by following CDC and state department of health guidelines. Remember it is okay to consult your child’s pediatrician to help you make decisions if you feel unsure or conflicted!
Khushbu Shah, M.D. is an Emergency Room and Urgent Care Pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and PM Pediatrics. Instagram: @doctorkhushi