COVID-19 is an ongoing concern for parents. Although more and more people are getting vaccinated, children have not yet been approved for the vaccine. With summer on the horizon and kids looking forward to resuming some normalcy, many parents are wondering whether their child should attend camp this year.
Unfortunately, this can be a challenging question for families, says Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern. "First and foremost, we do not know how the pandemic will evolve over the coming months. Hopefully, we will continue to see a drop in the number of cases. However, many states are now seeing an increase in cases and these trends are quite concerning," he says. "Further, many of the variants identified in various countries are now circulating in the U.S., including in North Texas."
While there may be no clear-cut answer to this question, you can consider trusted facts to help you make an informed decision and take steps to keep your family healthy.
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets released when talking, coughing or sneezing. This means that activities like camp can carry increased risk for the spread of viral infections, because they bring together large groups of people.
However, there are ways that camps can reduce spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you're considering a summer camp for your child, camps with lower risk of COVID-19 spread include ones that:
When considering summer camp for your child, it's important to know your own family's risk. What's right for one family may not be best for yours.
"If families are considering summer camp for their children, the first question to ask is whether the child or any household members are at high risk for severe COVID-19," says Dr. Kahn. "While children seem to be less prone to serious infection, they can and do get infected and can and do transmit the virus to others. If there are high risk individuals in the household, parents may want to reconsider summer camps for their children."
You can also take into account if adult household members have been vaccinated yet. "These vaccines are highly effective in protecting against COVID-19, so the best piece of advice for parents is to get vaccinated," adds Dr. Kahn.
You must also understand your personal situation and what's best for your child. Many parents do not have the option to stay home with their children during summer or have other factors to consider.
If you decide to send your child to a summer camp, it's important to be proactive about encouraging healthy habits and taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ask camp administrators what precautions are in place to help prevent or limit the spread of COVID-19 among the camp counselors, staff and children. The CDC has issued suggestions for youth summer camps. Read through these recommendations, as well as state and local orders, and consider asking these questions:
Before summer camp starts, continue to encourage healthy habits that are important for your child's overall health.
It's important to teach and reinforce behaviors that help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Make sure your child understands the importance of precautions such as:
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or has close contact with a person with COVID-19, keep them home from camp. Children with mild cases may experience cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and runny nose. Some children have also reported gastrointestinal symptoms. Contact your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child's symptoms. They can help determine if testing is needed.
Lastly, be prepared with a backup plan in the event your summer camp needs to close temporarily. Be aware of your camp's policies in this case and think about what you would do if your child had to be home or quarantine.
The question about whether to send your child to summer camp is a personal family decision. Because your pediatrician is familiar with your child's overall health, it may help to talk to your doctor if you have a specific concern about your child, especially if they have a chronic medical condition.
Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.