Should children take swim lessons if they are too young to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Swimming is a great family activity. It's good exercise and a life-saving skill.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water safety and swim lessons for all children as a layer of protection against drowning. While a COVID-19 vaccine for younger children is not yet available, taking extra precautions can help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure during swim lessons.
When considering swim lessons for your children, look for programs that follow the same public health guidelines used to protect against COVID-19 during other children's activities, such as school and sports. This includes keeping kids home if they are not feeling well, have had a fever within the last couple days, or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past two weeks. Also check that staff and visitors are screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
More questions to consider:
• Are lessons held indoors or outdoors?
If possible, choose outdoor swim lessons. COVID-19 can spread easily in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
• How many students are in each class?
Check that the class size is small and the pool allows for participants to stay at least 3 feet apart. Also ask if there are separate entrances and exits to the locker room and pool area. This can also help reduce close physical contact.
• Have instructors and staff received COVID-19 vaccinations?
Ask if instructors and staff are vaccinated. And even if they are vaccinated, they should still wear a mask outside of the pool. That goes for any child older than 2 who is not in the water, and also you and the entire swim school staff. Just be sure to replace your child's mask if it is wet.
• Are guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting followed?
Ask if the swim program follows all CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting all equipment and surfaces. Also check that hand sanitizer is available for kids and adults to use.
Some other ways to avoid COVID-19 transmission is for children to skip the locker room and other shared spaces. Have your child put their swimsuit on at home so they can head right to the class. Bring your own towels, drinking water and other items that may be needed.
Get COVID-19 vaccines as soon as you can. Vaccination is the best way to control the pandemic and will make important children's activities like swim lessons safer for everyone. Adults and children 12 years and older can be vaccinated now, and younger children will be able to get them soon.
Enrolling your children in swim lessons is definitely a good idea, even if they haven't had their COVID-19 vaccine yet. But keep in mind that swimming skills are only one layer to help keep kids safe in and around water. It's important to remember that swim lessons do not make your child drown-proof.
Even though your child is in a swim lesson, be a water watcher -- watch your child and watch for any child who may be in distress. Take CPR and First Aid classes, which will teach you what to do for a drowning victim.
Everyone, including adults, should learn to swim. The AAP advises that water safety and swim lessons can begin for many children starting at age 1. Check with your pediatrician to help you make the decision when to start swim lessons, and other ways to help protect your child against COVID-19.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of American Academy of Pediatrics. To check out more information, visit HealthyChildren.org.