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Even before pandemic was used to describe the COVID-19 health crisis, many already wondered, When will life go back to normal? When can we travel again?
Over a year later, many still question when we can safely resume all our normal, pre-COVID activities.
More than 145 million Americans—43.7 percent—are now fully vaccinated, according to the CDC (as of mid-June). And while many fully vaccinated families are planning their summer travel, for families with younger kids not yet vaccine-eligible, the summer may be different.
In fact, children under 12 or over 5 years of age and kids over 12 who are not vaccinated still need to wear masks when they're in public or in large gatherings—even when their parents and family members are vaccinated, according to an article on American Academy of Pediatrics website.
Still, it’s possible to plan fun and safe activities for your kids this summer. In fact, it’s necessary. All these months learning and playing “virtually” has really taken a toll on kids’ health—physical and mental. First, stuck indoors, more children have developed vitamin D deficiencies during the pandemic, says Dr. Anita Juvvadi, a pediatrician at Juvvadi Pediatrics with Stanford Children's Health. "We want the stimulation, we want the exercise, we want the sun exposure," she says.
Plus, childhood is a crucial time for building social connections—something that just isn't the same over a computer screen. "Much of children’s socialization has been limited,” Dr. Juvvadi says. "We don't want to lose any more time."
With the right precautions, though, there’s no reason kids should stay locked at home this summer. Here are some tips to help parents plan a fun—yet safe—summer.
Maintain open and honest communication
Now’s not the time to stop talking to your kids about the pandemic, including about the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing (note the CDC has recently reduced its social distancing recommendation from six to three feet). More than a lecture, this should be a conversation where you explain the reasoning behind certain measures at summer camp or your hotel. The conversation should prepare kids for what they may encounter and help them avoid surprises down the road.
Stay as informed as possible
Staying up-to-date with current news and measures prepares you to answer your kids’ questions about summer travel destinations and activities. You can do this by consulting trusted experts like your family doctor. If you’re traveling, you should also try to stay as updated as possible with the current news of both your local city and your travel destination: If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that world events and circumstances constantly evolve, which means your plans may need to pivot.
Be your own CDC
During your travels, you may need to take matters into your own hands—after all, you can’t trust that everyone you encounter is taking proper COVID precautions. So if you’re staying in a hotel, consider bringing your own wipes to disinfect and sanitize surfaces. Depending on how far you want to go, you can also bring your own towels and sheets.
“I would carry my disinfecting wipes and wipe down wherever I’m going to sit,” says Dr. Jesspreet Gowan, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates with Stanford Children’s Health. “I’d try to find a seat near some kind of ventilation and minimize movement throughout the journey.”
Choose outdoor over indoors
Virus experts have concluded that, outside, coronavirus particles disperse more quickly than inside, making it less likely that you’ll breathe in respiratory droplets tainted with COVID-19. Keeping this in mind, along with the fact that it’s easier to social-distance outdoors, it’s easy to see why it’s the better option for kids’ summer events and activities.
For more tips on how to vacation safely this summer, check out the Healthier, Happy Lives Blog at the Stanford Children's Health site.