Q: My children are still too young for the COVID-19 vaccine. Is it OK to enroll them in swim lessons?
A: Yes. Swimming is a great family activity. It's good exercise and it can be a lifesaving skill to have.
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 children under age 12 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.
Here are some other questions to consider and tips to follow:
— 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 anyone else who is working there and you. 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.
— Skip the locker room: If possible, avoid using the locker rooms and other shared spaces. Have your child put his or her swimsuit on at home so you can head right to class.
— Bring your own things: That includes towels, drinking water, sunscreen and goggles.
— 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 should be able to get them soon.
Enrolling your children in swim lessons is definitely a good idea, 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 prevent all drownings.
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 American Academy of Pediatrics advises that water safety and swim lessons can begin for many children starting at age 1.
Deciding when to start should be based on a variety of individual factors, including how often your child may be around water, your child's emotional maturity, physical and developmental abilities and limitations, interest in learning to swim, and how comfortable he or she is in the water. Your pediatrician is a good resource to help know if your toddler is ready.
Check with your pediatrician to help you make the decision on when to start swim lessons and to learn about other ways to help protect your child against COVID-19.
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