During the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), parents have been navigating uncharted waters. Now, as plans allow the reopening of child care centers and youth camps in Texas, parents are facing a new question: Is it okay to send your child to daycare or summer camp during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer to this question. What's right for other families may not be best for yours. However, you can consider trusted facts to help you make an informed decision and take steps to keep your family healthy.
First, consider what we've learned about children and COVID-19
While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. Generally, children with confirmed COVID-19 have shown mild symptoms.
However, much is still being learned about how COVID-19 affects children – including newer reports of a rare inflammatory response being called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Additionally, it's important to be aware that children may be able to spread the virus to others before they show any symptoms themselves.
Consider how COVID-19 spreads
At this point, we believe that COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and close contact from person-to-person. The riskiest situation for the spread of viral infections is in groups where large numbers of people are close. This means if you have a choice about whether you send your child to daycare or summer camp this year or not, the lowest risk choice may be to keep your child at home.
That said, many people do not have the option to stay home with their children or have other factors to consider. Many parents work and need to seek care for their children, and they should not feel guilty for doing so. Instead, they should focus on what they can control to keep their family healthy.
Consult your pediatrician
The question about whether to send your child to daycare or summer camp is a personal family decision. It may also be wise to consult a pediatrician who is familiar with your child's overall health. This may help if you have a specific concern about your child, especially one who has a chronic medical condition.
How to keep your family healthy if your child goes to daycare or summer camp
If you've decided to send your child to a care program or youth camp, be proactive about encouraging healthy habits and taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Find out about safety plans at your child care facility or summer camp
Ask leadership of the child care facility or camp what precautions will be taken to help prevent or limit the spread of the coronavirus among the staff, children and families. The CDC has issued guidelines for child care programs as well as considerations for youth summer camps. Become familiar with these recommendations, as well as state and local orders, and consider asking these questions:
- How will proper hand hygiene be encouraged?
- How will children and caregivers be screened each day?
- What will be the ratio of caregiver/counselors to children?
- What types of social distancing measures will be observed?
- Will it be necessary for staff or older children to wear facemasks?
- How will parent drop-off and pick-up be handled?
- How will toys and surfaces be disinfected?
- How will meals be served?
- Do you have a plan if someone becomes sick?
If you know what safety precautions will be taken, you can feel more confident that your child care program is doing everything possible to minimize risk.
Know the symptoms of COVID-19
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus, keep them home. In mild cases, children may have cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose and cough. Some children have also reported gastrointestinal symptoms. Stay in contact with your pediatrician to monitor and care for your child, and keep your child care facility informed.
Take steps to boost your child's overall health and well-being
- Show children how to clean and sanitize their hands properly
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces in your home
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay current on your child's routine vaccinations and well-visit checks
- Prepare nutritious foods
- Make sure your children get plenty of sleep
- Encourage children to be physically active each day
- If children seem anxious about COVID-19, listen to their concerns and help manage them
Know that the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, and plans may change
Be prepared with a backup plan if your child care facility or summer camp needs to close again temporarily. You might need to enlist the help of a close relative who has been social distancing or pivot back into your work-at-home routine.
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.
Stay current on the health and wellness information that makes a difference to you and your family. Sign up for the Children's Health newsletter and have more expert tips and insights sent directly to your inbox.