Should Kids Wear Face Masks? It Depends On The Age

Even if you’ve taken every precaution to keep your kid safe, at some point they’re going to want to go outside. It might be a McDonald’s run, or a super speedy trip to the supermarket to buy something important (like, you know, cookie dough). And in that moment, you’re going to come face-to-face with an important question: should kids wear face masks? Does an impromptu outing require one, or will your child be safe sans a mask?

Although you might get different responses depending on who you ask, the answer is yes, your kid should wear a face mask. “At the current moment, with the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, every person on earth can play a role to slow its progression,” says Dr. Cara Natterson, pediatrician and author of “Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons.” “Kids play a particularly significant role in the spread of the virus because they can carry it without showing any symptoms.”

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone wear a mask when they are outside in a public place — including kids. “In order to help them prevent the further spread of Coronavirus, kids need to abide by all of the physical distancing measures recommended for adults, including the donning of masks,” says Dr. Natterson. “An estimated 25 – 50% of all Coronavirus infections are asymptomatic, particularly in kids. So it doesn’t make sense to only mask up when we have a cough, sniffle, or fever.”

That said, there are certain exceptions to the CDC guidelines. Masks aren’t recommended for children under the age of 2, although it’s not explicitly stated why this is the case. “Masks are not recommended for children under the age of 2 because the risks of strangulation or suffocation are much higher in infants and toddlers,” says Dr. Natterson. “Anything that wraps around the mouth or neck can get caught there, and younger kids often lack the dexterity to remove these things.” So if it’s possible, try to avoid taking a young child out to a public area so you won’t have to worry about him wearing a mask.

So if you’re looking for a mask for your child, there are plenty of options online. In fact, too many that you might get confused about what you need exactly. But when it comes to face masks, cotton is the way to go. “The recommendation for kids and adults alike is to wear a cotton face mask – really it’s a face covering,” says Dr. Natterson. Of course, you can always craft one of your own using household items (the CDC has instructions on how to make them). But if it’s possible, leave the professional PPE for those who truly need it, like health care and front line workers.

But if you thought that buying a mask was the hardest part, getting your child to don it when you need to go outside is another issue altogether. After all, you might discover that your child has a fear of masks and won’t want to wear it. So convincing your kid to wear one might be a bigger battle than you imagined. “Older kids are far more likely to wear masks if they understand the purpose, since there is a social responsibility now,” says Dr. Natterson. “So explain to them that by wearing a mask, you protect me and when I wear a mask, I protect you.” Younger kids might have a tougher time with this concept, so be sure to explain the why, and then practice wearing one so that it makes your child become more comfortable with the mask.

Now is a particularly critical time for kids to wear face masks. So in an attempt to flatten the curve and keep everyone safe, make sure you have a mask if your kiddo needs to accompany you on an errand. You can even give them a cape to wear so they feel like a superhero. That way, you (and your caped crusader) will stay safe through this turbulent time.

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