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Ask Dr. Meg: Is it safe for my kids to play indoor sports?

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Dr. Meg Meeker

When it comes to when and where your kids can play safely, there are a few things to consider.

1. What is the state of COVID in your community?

If you live in a smaller town or city with relatively few cases, as I do in Traverse City, Michigan, you have a little more flexibility with what your kids can do. Playing indoor sports with masks (there are great athletic masks available online) is safer in a community with few cases. Playing indoor sports in a big city with high numbers is not.

This goes for indoor playtime with other kids and families. If your community doesn’t have a high COVID count, ask your child’s friend’s parents the appropriate questions to make sure it’s safe for your child to play with them. Ask questions like How many other people do you regularly seeing? Do you routinely wear masks?

If you live in a big city with a higher case count, I recommend allowing your children to play with other children only outdoors and from a safe social distance or with masks on at all times.

2. Is your child high-risk or is anyone you live with high-risk?

If your child has diabetes, severe asthma, a severe immune deficiency or another illness that puts him at risk for developing severe symptoms from COVID, he should not play indoor sports. If you have an elderly member of your family living with you or a family member who has any of the above-mentioned illnesses, I would also recommend not allowing your child to have indoor playtime with others or play indoor sports since he would then pose a risk to your at-risk family member.

3. Is your or your child’s mental health at stake?

Where I live, because we haven’t had high numbers of COVID and I haven’t seen any children get seriously ill from COVID, the more severe issue I am dealing with in my patients is mental health issues due to isolation. This goes for both parent and child. If your or your child’s mental health is suffering due to isolation and you don’t fall under a high-risk category, allowing your child to socialize with others could be critical for your and your child’s health.

This gives your child playtime and healthy social interaction, and this gives you a break. If the activity your child is most wanting to do involves and indoor sport, as long as your child and household are low-risk and the numbers in your area are low, playing indoor with an athletic mask is ok.  

Bottom line for this question is that every parent needs to do his or her own research based on their child, household, and community. Here are a couple of websites that do a good job of explaining the effects of COVID on children and how to best keep them safe, specifically if and when playing sports:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-outbreak-and-kids

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/youth-sports.html

I would also recommend consulting your pediatrician with any questions about your child’s health and safety when it comes to indoor and outdoor playtime. I don’t think we need to eliminate these things altogether. In fact, they are crucial to a child’s well-being, but we have to remember every case is different, every community is in a different situation so individualized guided care is the best option.

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