Editor's note:  Is it safe to get back to the life you knew? As services come back, we’re asking our doctors and other providers to help answer those questions in a series called Navigating COVID: Back to life. You’ll find those stories, and many others, here. Got a question? Email healthyheadlines@novanthealth.org.

 Dr. Kasey Scannell, of Novant Health Pediatrics Symphony Park answers common questions about what’s OK for kids, and what’s risky when it comes to visiting parks and playgrounds.

Are children expected to wear masks?

Children under 2 should not wear masks due to risk of suffocation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If your child is over 2 years of age and will cooperate with wearing a mask, we recommend doing so.  If a child is not cooperative, you or your child may end up touching their face more often, which may be detrimental.  Here is a link to great tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Are children expected to social distance?

Yes, if possible. Children should maintain 6 feet of social distance from those outside of their immediate family.  However, most younger children cannot understand why they are unable run up to other people or touch multiple surfaces.  That’s why we recommend those children be kept at home or in open spaces with few people. 

How should you handle a trip to the park?

For phase one reopening, gatherings of more than 10 are not recommended so we would advocate avoiding areas with crowds larger than 10 people. This recommendation will change with each phase of reopening. In addition, playgrounds have public equipment, which adds additional restriction. This is likely why playgrounds are not permitted in phase one. However parks (spaces which are more open) are allowed to open. 

Are surfaces like slides safe? Should parents plan to bring wipes to clean things off?

Playground surfaces such as water fountains, slides, monkey bars, etc. are considered a risk for transmission of the viruses and illness.  It can be difficult to clean these surfaces thoroughly. 

If playgrounds themselves aren’t safe, but are reopening – any advice for parents? Should we avoid playgrounds for now and use greenways or other open spaces without shared equipment?

For now, we do agree this is the safest option. 

 Are playdates OK with smaller groups, such as with one or two families?

Figuring out when and with whom to expand your social circle right now is very difficult. Remember that by socializing with anyone you are in essence exposing yourself to all of their contacts from the immediate past.  So, if another family has been successfully quarantined though this pandemic and you want to create a small “quaranteam,” it boils down to a personal risk/benefit analysis. 

If you or your child is immunocompromised or considered high-risk, we would discourage even this type of interaction.