As summer begins and many states relax social distancing guidelines, you may be wondering if you can start setting up playdates for your children again. They may be wondering, too, and asking when they can see their friends.
"I understand the pressures to get out there and socialize again," says Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern. "Humans are social beings, especially our children."
But Dr. Kahn cautions it's important to remember that COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends social distancing to prevent infection, including avoiding in-person playdates.
However, if a family makes the decision to socialize or start having playdates again, Dr. Kahn encourages them to take precautions to reduce COVID-19 risk.
5 considerations for playdates during the coronavirus pandemic
1. Think about your family's health first
Before you begin planning time around other people, first think about who lives in your home. Is anyone in your family at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19? While we're still learning about COVID-19 risk factors, someone may be at high risk if they are 65 or older or have conditions such as:
- Asthma or chronic lung disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart conditions
- Immunodeficiency due to cancer treatment, smoking, organ transplant or HIV/AIDS
- Liver disease
- Severe obesity (body mass index over 40)
If anyone in your household has any of these conditions, you should continue to practice social distancing. They may become critically ill if COVID-19 spreads in your home.
2. Keep a social distancing bubble
For the past few months, your household has likely been your social bubble. If you are going to expand that bubble, choose a small community of just two or three families rather than many.
Talk to a few other families who have been practicing social distancing and establish some general guidelines ahead of time. If you agree to spend time together, families should limit social contact outside of your new, bigger bubble as much as possible. Check if those families have any high-risk family members at home, and if they are avoiding other non-essential errands and contact as much as possible.
"Try not to extend your social contact to a variety of different groups or settings," says Dr. Kahn. "The more interactions you have with other people, the greater the likelihood of infection."
You should also all agree on how you will prevent risks, such as wearing facemasks on unavoidable outings. If one family decides to go on a trip, they should consider self-quarantining for 14 days before rejoining playgroups. Most importantly, everyone should agree to let the other families know if someone is exposed to the virus.
3. Play outdoors when possible
Playing outside is generally safer than playing inside. The air keeps everything moving, and you may be further away from each other.
However, Texas summers pose their own threats of and sunburns. Take precautions to stay safe in the heat, such as:
- Applying sunscreen and reapplying every 2 hours
- Avoiding the hottest times of the day outside (generally 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Bringing plenty of water to stay hydrated (but don't share water bottles)
- Seeking shade
Playing in water may also help you avoid problems with heat.
4. Wash hands often
Encourage children to wash their hands frequently during playdates. You can consider other protective measures, too, depending on the age of your children.
"For older children, wearing a mask and giving each other space is more doable," says Dr. Kahn. "However, cloth face coverings are not recommended for young children under 2, and it's harder to explain distancing to them."
You can also consider wiping down toys after playdates or having kids bring separate toys.
5. Stay up-to-date on COVID-19
Even if you start having playdates again, that doesn't mean they should be back for good. The coronavirus pandemic is always changing, so you'll need to keep up with the latest news, guidelines and case numbers in your local area.
"Remember that the social distancing restrictions can go in either direction," says Dr. Kahn. "If we're starting to see another peak of virus activity, we may have to make our social restrictions tighter again."
While social distancing is difficult for everyone, especially for children, remember it is an important way to remain healthy during this time. Model self-care for your children and continue to encourage virtual social connections to foster a sense of community. See more tips for social distancing with kids.
Learn more about COVID-19
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.
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