Covid-19 and Summer Camps: 2021 update

From the Huffington Post

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released updates about summer camps amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing that “safe camp participation” is possible — and can offer real benefits to children — if certain mitigation measures are followed.

“In light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, children have missed out on the many of the social, emotional, intellectual, and developmental benefits of school attendance this past year in many communities,”state the guidelines, which were updated recently.

“Additionally, they have lost out on family gatherings, traditional celebrations, and community recreation,” the AAP says. “During the summer, it is important that children begin to reestablish connections with their friends, peers, and non-parental adults in an environment that supports their development while also consistently practicing the recommended principles to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

Above all, camp directors must stick to CDC guidance for maintaining healthy environments, which emphasizes the importance of social distancing. For example: Having small groups of campers who stay together all day, every day; who remain at least six feet apart; who do not share objects, and who generally stick to outdoor activities is the least risky way to structure camp, the CDC says. Having groups of campers mixing and not maintaining any level of social distance poses the highest risk.

Although the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both now say that it is sufficient for students to sit 3 feet (as opposed to 6 feet) apart in classroom settings, the AAP’s new camp-specific guidelines do not offer hard-and-fast rules around ideal spacing.

But the AAP does emphasize that mask-wearing is essential, making a point to bold the following statement in its new guidelines: “It is important to note that the vast majority of children, even those with medical conditions, are able to safely and effectively wear face masks with adequate practice and support as well as modeling from adults.”

The new AAP guidance stops short of recommending that all campers should be tested for COVID-19 prior to attending — or that all camps have a process for testing campers and counselors while in session — though it does emphasize that testing can be one important part of a broader preventive strategy.

And it states unequivocally that all camps must have a clear plan for how to proceed if a camper or staffer becomes sick with COVID-19.

“This should include plans to remove a camper or staff member infected with SARS-CoV-2 from the camp, to separate and evaluate the health of close contacts, and if necessary, to close the camp if an outbreak is detected,” the guidance states.

Of course, ultimately choices about whether to send a child to camp rest with families and their pediatricians, who must weigh their specific circumstances as well as the rates of transmission in their area.

Children who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend camp, the group states, though again, that’s a conversation families should have with their children’s health care providers.

Ultimately, the AAP acknowledges that in a group setting like a camp, it can be difficult to adhere to the mitigation strategies that have been shown, time and again, to work: masking, hand-washing, social distancing and density reduction.

“However,” the group states, “the commitment of camp operators and the community to support safe camp openings is important to support child health and well-being.”

Confusing Food Facts

From the Tufts Nutrition Newsletter

There is a lot of “ad-speak” in the food industry. Even terms that are regulated can be confusing. It’s important to understand what these claims mean to make the most informed choice. Here are a few examples: 

ORGANIC: A food that is “certified organic” is required to be produced without the use of certain pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. But this doesn’t make a food any more nutritious than the conventionally grown version. Fruit roll-ups and gummy bears made from organic cane sugar or organic fruit juice concentrate are still high in added sugars. French fries and soda made from organic ingredients are still French fries and soda. If you want to avoid or minimize exposure to things like pesticides, protect the environment from contaminants, or support organic agriculture, this label is useful. But by itself it does not mean “more nutritious.” 

EXCELLENT SOURCE OF: This means the food provides at least 20 percent of the daily value of a nutrient per serving. But don’t assume a product is a healthy choice just because it provides one particular nutrient. For example, while yogurt is naturally an excellent source of calcium, it can also be highly sweetened or have other unhealthy additives that make the product a less-than-ideal choice. 

GLUTEN-FREE: Foods with this label contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is the lowest amount that can be reliably scientifically detected. A gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease (one percent of Americans) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but there is no scientific evidence that foods without gluten are healthier than their regular counterparts for the rest of the population. You may see this claim on products that are manufactured to be gluten-free, like breads or snacks. This phrase is becoming more common on products that are naturally gluten-free, like bottled water or fruits. Be aware that, while refined wheat flour must be enriched with important vitamins and minerals found in unrefined grain, gluten-free products often lack these nutrients, and many contain higher amounts of added sugars, salt, and other unhealthy ingredients than some of their gluten-containing counterparts. 

REDUCED: This claim indicates the product has at least 25 percent less of something (such as fat, cholesterol, sugar, sodium, or calories) compared to the regular version of that product. But, again, this doesn’t ensure the product is a good choice for health. For example, reduced fat peanut butters frequently have less healthy unsaturated fat and more added sugar, and a reduced calorie food isn’t necessarily a food that will promote weight loss.

We all need iron in our diets, especially babies!

From the Journal of Pediatrics 

Many nursing moms withhold solid food until the baby is 6 months of age. This is generally a good idea, since breast milk is the best nutritional choice for newborns. The only word of caution here is that at 6 months, all breastfed babies begin to become iron deficient, since breast milk is not a particularly great source of iron. “The daily intake of iron from breast milk (about 0.2mg/day) can only meet about 15%-20% of the overall need for iron of the older breastfed infant.” This begs the question: So what if my baby doesn’t have enough iron? The answer can be summarized in one word: hemoglobin.

We all need iron to make hemoglobin. Why do we need hemoglobin? Well hemoglobin’s job is to carry oxygen to all the tissues of the body. That means developing bodies need hemoglobin for adequate growth and development, and the biggest “hemoglobin gobbler” is your baby’s developing BRAIN. Studies show that infants with iron deficiency, when followed through childhood, will have lower average IQ scores, as well as other measures of intelligence. 

The authors summarize their findings:

“Iron deficiency, especially in the first 2years of life, may be associated with significant life-long developmental consequences … low intakes relative to requirements is of concern related not only to hematologic measures, but also to developmental outcomes.

So if you plan to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, make certain that the very first baby food you choose is not avocado (yum) or sweet potato (yum), but iron-fortified baby oatmeal. Boring, but a must for your Iron Man wannabe.

Rapid vs PCR

From the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal

Just how accurate IS the antigen (rapid) Covid test? Is it better to just wait the 48 hours for the results of the RNA (PCR) test? Apparently, the quick antigen test is pretty accurate, and with travel and socializing decisions often being time-sensitive, the rapid test is very useful. 

In a recent study, four hundred forty swabs in children were tested. Amongst the 18 positive PCR samples, 14 were detected by the rapid antigen test, given an overall sensitivity of 77.7%. All the samples detected positive with the antigen rapid test were also positive with PCR. In other words, no false positives. In teens and adults, the results for the rapid test are even better.

According to the authors, “Considering the good values of specificity, negative and positive predictive values this test could be used as a frontline test to obtain quick results, although the negative values with COVID-19 high clinical suspicion should be confirmed using PCR.”


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The Kidfixer Newsletter            Summer, 2021