If you feel like the recommendations for personal safety in the time of COVID-19 are changing constantly, you’re not alone. This includes the use of masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Although some people started wearing masks outside their homes in public early in the outbreak, there was no evidence at the time that masks actually helped and their use was not widely recommended. In early April 2020, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendations to say that all people over age two should wear masks when outside the home. This was based on accumulating evidence that the coronavirus was easily transmitted by people who didn’t show any symptoms. According to the CDC, wearing a mask protected both the person wearing the mask and those around you by decreasing the respiratory secretions you shed by sneezing, coughing, or even talking.

Here’s what you need to know as of April 10, 2020:

  1. Children older than age two should wear a cloth mask, covering both the mouth and nose, when out of their homes with adults. The mask should be comfortable, fit properly, and be easily secured around their ears, not their necks.
  2. Surgical masks and N95 masks are not appropriate for children. If a safe mask cannot be found, the child should not wear a substitute. Homemade masks are acceptable alternatives.
  3. The mask should be worn anytime the child is in contact with people or surfaces that have been touched by others, such as at the grocery store, pharmacy, or doctor’s office. The mask should be put on with clean hands, and both hands and the mask should be washed when the mask is taken off.
  4. No masks are needed for a family stroll around the neighborhood unless the child will be touching surfaces that can be touched by other people.
  5. No mask needs to be worn if the child is at home with their regular housemates and everyone is healthy.
  6. Children should always be supervised when wearing a mask and should never sleep in a mask.
  7. If the child cannot breathe comfortably, or is upset and frustrated and touches the mask constantly, it should not be worn.
  8. Babies and children under age two do not need to wear a mask. Covering the stroller or infant carrier with a thin cotton or muslin blanket when at the store is enough.
  9. Practice wearing your masks together with your children while at home to decrease fear and help them understand that lots of people will be wearing them. Keep explanations simple. Let them know you will all be wearing masks when out of the house in order to keep each other safe.
  10. Parents of children with special healthcare needs should discuss which mask is most appropriate for their child with their physician.

Remember, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing, leaving the home only when absolutely necessary.

Takeaways

  • Children over age 2 should wear a mask in public.
  • Regular face masks and even homemade masks are fine.
  • Demonstrate how to wear a mask and talk to your kids about why you’re wearing them.
  • Continue social distancing.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Masks and Children During COVID-19.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of Cloth Face Coverings.
  3. The Stitching Scientist. Child Size Face Mask.

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