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Can You Protect Kids from COVID at Summer Camp?

Kids are happy to go to summer camp this year, but in many places COVID cases are rising. Some camps have had outbreaks.
Can You Protect Kids from COVID at Summer Camp?
Friendship kids at sommer camp happy healthy smiles

Most children have not been vaccinated, since the vaccines are approved only for people 12 and older. Nonetheless, parents are sending them to summer camp anyway. After a year of remote school and lockdown, it seems like it is time for some fun this summer. But are kids safe from COVID while they are camping?

Protecting Children from COVID at Summer Camp:

Many camps have adopted strategies to reduce the risk of infection. Some are feeding youngsters outside or requiring masks when people are indoors. However, there still are challenges.

Outbreaks Causing Trouble:

Worrisome outbreaks are now being reported in camps in places like Kansas, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Missouri. These are mostly places where infections are rising in the surrounding communities. More worrisome, kids are bringing COVID home to family and friends. Some outbreaks have spread from summer camp to nearby counties. In Houston, a church camp was associated with more than 130 new cases among both youngsters and adults. A second wave of infection appeared slightly later, as campers spread the virus to their families at home.

Will Kids Be Safe at School in the Fall?

Experts fear that children will be carrying COVID from camp back to school this fall. While people between 12 and 15 can get vaccinated, those under 12 still do not have access to that protection. We don’t know if that will change before the start of the school year. If the delta variant continues to rise through the summer months, keeping youngsters safe at school could require masks indoors. Given the polarized mood of the country now, that could lead to arguments.

Children Can Suffer Long COVID:

Some people have suggested that even if youngsters are infected with COVID-19, it’s no big deal. They recover quickly and rarely require hospitalization. Until recently, we had no idea whether children and adolescents would experience the lingering symptoms we call long COVID. Now a study from Switzerland demonstrates that although it is uncommon (about 4%), some kids do suffer from long-lasting symptoms including fatigue and trouble concentrating for months (JAMA, July 15, 2021). Whether they catch it at school, at home or at summer camp, a bout of COVID can spell trouble for some kids for a long time.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Radtke T et al, "Long-term symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection in children and adolescents." JAMA, July 15, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.11880
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