Should children wear face masks? We asked a pediatrician

As parents, we tend to want to make things better for our children. But the seriousness of the novel coronavirus forced us to speak seriously to our children about their safety and that of others.

Now that the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face cover when venturing out in public, many parents are wondering if their children should wear masks when they go out.

If they are over 2 years old, the answer is yes.

But it can be very difficult for parents when children don’t understand why masks are important and why they can’t just play outside and see their friends and grandparents.

Dr. Rachel J. Thornton, practicing pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said in an email interview that it is important that parents are open and honest with their children when they are talking about face masks. And don’t assume they won’t want to wear one.

“Try to engage in open, honest and developmentally appropriate communication with your child about masks,” said Thornton. “Keep the conversation and the concepts simple, to a level they can understand. Find a time to start the conversation with them about wearing a mask in advance when you need it. This approach can help ensure that the child has time to ask questions and repeat the behavior if necessary. “

Here Thornton offers more tips and resources on how to talk to kids about masks without scaring them.

The CDC does not recommend masks for children under 2 years of age. What about children under 10?

  • In general, we want to be sure that any face cover worn by a child does not present a risk of suffocation or suffocation. As long as the face cover does not present a risk of suffocation for a child over 2 years old and it can be worn safely without hampering the child’s ability to breathe, this is fine. The American Academy of Pediatrics has helpful information for parents, including a set of frequently asked questions about children’s fabric clothing covers during COVID-19, available on their parent / guardian website.

Should children wear masks when walking with their parents?

  • As a general rule, it is advisable to cover your face when you may not be able to fully maintain your physical distance as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (i.e., maintain six feet of distance from others). If a child is outside to walk or play in an area where he or she can stay six feet away from other people who are not members of the same household, the advice suggests that it is not necessary to cover your face. For example, if you are going for a family walk in your neighborhood. If it is necessary for a child to go to a place where it is difficult to maintain a physical distance of six feet from others, such as a necessary trip to the grocery store or pharmacy, then the CDC guidelines for wearing a face covering recommend using a non-medical mask or facial covering. It is important to note that wearing a face cover does not eliminate the need to adhere to the physical distance. It is always important, as much as possible, to stay at least six feet from each other even when wearing a face covering to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and prevent its spread.

Do you have any advice on making a toddler / child wear a mask without scaring him or her?

  • Even young children can learn healthy habits such as washing their hands. Using simple, age-appropriate language is helpful in teaching them health habits such as hand washing. Practicing or repeating the behavior can also help integrate it into a child’s routine. When talking about masks to toddlers and young children, try to keep the conversation quiet; allow him to progress at his own pace. Use developmental and direct language. Encourage the children to ask questions and share what they know and how they feel.
  • Establishing consistent routines, repeating and reviewing what will happen next, and giving children enough time to transition between activities can all help children to control and reduce their level of anxiety in new experiences.
  • Try to resist the urge to assume that your child will react negatively to wearing a mask. Instead, present the idea and ask them what they think about it. They may be delighted to wear a mask with a fun pattern or their favorite color. It may also be helpful to give them the opportunity to practice wearing a mask at home and watch you practice wearing their non-medical mask or face covering so they can get used to it.
  • Making masks at home for your family or donating to others can be an activity that makes children feel safe and helps others.
  • It is important to note that a face cover can distract children and cause them to touch their face more than usual. Advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics available at suggests reconsidering the use of a cloth face mask when it causes your child to touch his face more frequently than when he is not wearing it.

Breathing problems with children and masks that parents should know about?

  • When a mask prevents a child from breathing normally or when he is unable to remove the mask by himself if necessary, the CDC recommends not wearing a face covering. These are important factors to keep in mind. Any child unable or unable to remove the covering by themselves if necessary should not wear a cloth face covering.

Do children have special needs, such as wearing a mask with a filter?

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cloth face covers. The recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics are similar. For most people, these fabric blankets would be more appropriate in a community setting where physical distance may not be possible. There may be specific circumstances where another type of mask is recommended. For children with serious or chronic illnesses, including immunocompromised or with significant lung disease or other conditions, you should speak directly with your child’s health care provider for advice on type and most appropriate approach to wear a face covering that meets their needs.

What if my child is sick and we need to go to the doctor? Are the protocols different now?

  • If your child has a medical emergency, you should see a doctor by calling 911 and going to the emergency room for assessment and treatment.
  • If your child is sick and has mild symptoms that you can manage at home, you should call your child’s health care provider to discuss the specific circumstances surrounding their illness and the symptoms they are experiencing. In this way, your child’s health care provider can give specific recommendations for your child and can make recommendations as to whether your child should be seen in person for care, whether a video visit or a telehealth visit. could be used, or if a specific treatment would be recommended based on your child’s disease symptoms. Calling your child’s doctor for questions or for advice can help ensure your child is getting the care they need in the right place and with the most appropriate precautions to prevent the risk of exposure or transmission. of COVID-19.

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