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Ask the Expert: Does My Child Need to Wear a Mask?

Ask the Expert: Does My Child Need to Wear a Mask?

young girl wearing mask

As we continue through the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important families practice safe social distancing and staying home as much as we can. But sometimes we aren’t able to keep children at home, especially in single-parent households when a quick trip to the grocery store isn’t possible without a little one. But when should kids wear a mask? We consulted experts to get the answers to parents’ questions.

When Should Masks Be Worn?

The CDC suggests using face coverings in public places where it’s difficult to stay more than six feet apart from other people. This is primarily to protect the community against asymptomatic carriers of the virus. “Since so many people who have COVID-19 don’t have symptoms, wearing masks can help reduce the possibility that someone with no symptoms could transmit the disease to others.”

But getting a child to practice safe mask-wearing can be tricky. We talked with Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, Dr. Claudia Gaviria, to fully understand when kids should be masking up and when they shouldn’t.

Kids & Masks: the Do’s & Don’ts

Dr. Gaviria said there still isn’t a lot of information available about how Covid-19 affects children, and medical experts are constantly learning more. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great FAQ page parents can use as a reference.

DON’T mask your baby.
Children under the age of two years old should NOT be wearing a mask or any sort of cloth face covering. So don’t worry about masking up your infant.

DON’T touch the mask!
The two primary modes of Covid-19 transmission happens through the air and through things people touch. Children are notorious for unconsciously touching surfaces, then their face and mouths, which makes them ideal virus transmitters.

Kids over the age of two should NOT wear a mask if they are inclined to touch their mask while wearing it. Dr. Gaviria has an effective way to talk to kids about handling their masks. “I like to tell my younger patients to pretend the front of their mask is used toilet paper. It really works! Nobody wants to touch used toilet paper!”

She is very clear about children that fidget with their masks – “If you child is touching their face more because of a mask, it’s defeating the purpose, and can actually expose them to the virus more.”

DO have the right sized mask for kids.
Because kids should keep their hands off their mask when they wear it, it’s important that masks aren’t too big. They should completely cover your child’s nose and mouth without sagging or slipping. Some parents have more luck with a kid-sized neck gaiter when it comes to finding the right fit.

Others take a note from Peter Parker and let their kids mask up super-hero style. Whatever style you choose, it’s a good idea to let your child give input about their mask. Let them pick out a color, pattern, or character they love – they’ll be more likely to be excited about wearing it!

Emily’sMask Kid-Sized Mask Pattern pdf

CraftPassion Kid-Sized Mask Pattern

DO have kids wear a mask in certain situations.
It’s important for parents to keep kids out of indoor public spaces as much as they can. If you must bring them to places like a doctors office, pharmacy, or grocery store – AND they can wear a mask without touching it – that is preferred. Dr. Gaviria also recommends children still need to practice safe social distancing while wearing masks indoors when and if they can.

Kids who can keep at least 6 feet of social distance in an outside setting do not need a mask as long as they can avoid touching shared surfaces.

DON’T use a N95 or medical-grade mask on your child.
Unless your pediatrician has specifically recommended it, a professional grade mask isn’t necessary. Donate those to your favorite medical professional instead.

DO sanitize your hands before and after you remove a mask.
Dr. Gaviria reiterates, “Washing your children’s hands, or using a good hand sanitizer, is the #1 way to keep this virus away.” Be diligent about making sure kids wash their hands before and after they take their mask off to help keep it clean.

DON’T forget to wash your mask too!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks should be washed after each wearing. (I know. This is a tough one!)

Hopefully these tips will help you figure out if and when your kids need to be wearing a mask in this new normal. Big thanks to Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children and Dr. Claudia Gaviria for sharing her expert advice to local families!

DO YOU PROVIDE KID-SIZED MASKS? Leave a comment below and let other parents know – brownie points if you include a link to your online contact-free shop!

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