Effective strategies such as physical distancing, good hand washing, and wearing face masks help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, including its more contagious Delta and Lambda variant. In addition to that, vaccines are also an extra layer of protection to help decrease the severity of symptoms and even decrease the risk of being infected. However, for children younger who are still not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, wearing face masks is especially important.
Many, if not all, parents are raising concerns about wearing face masks for their children. Many parents still have questions if a mask can threaten their children’s breathing. With that, we are here to put your mind at ease and help you understand why children need masks, how it helps them. Furthermore, we are here to debunk the most common misconception that wearing face masks can cause trouble in your child’s breathing.
Children and Face Masks
As you may know by now, COVID-19 can spread through respiratory droplets. It means it is transmitted when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Hence, wearing a face mask can block the transmission through blocking respiratory droplets to reach you and others. This is why it is vital to wear face masks. However, some people cannot wear face masks. These include children younger than 2 years old, someone who is sick and has trouble breathing, anyone who can not take a mask off without help, and people with some types of cognitive, developmental, or behavioral conditions.
Many parents are raising concerns that face masks can reduce oxygen intake, and can lead to low blood oxygen levels, known as hypoxemia. However, these beliefs are false. Masks are tested and proven to be made from breathable materials so that it will not block oxygen when worn. These face masks undergo scrutiny to test its air flow and overall comfortability, making sure that one does not have any difficulty breathing when wearing the mask. With that, children aged 2 or older can really wear face masks for extended periods of time, especially in public settings such as at the school or at the daycare. Many parents also believe that wearing a face mask can affect their child's lungs from developing normally. This is also a false belief because oxygen flows through and around the mask, while filtering the respiratory droplets that may contain the virus. This keeps your child's lungs healthy which is important. With that, wearing face masks does not threaten your kid’s breathing.
In addition, there have been invalid reports that face masks can cause carbon dioxide poisoning or also known as hypercapnia, due to re-breathing the air we normally breathe out. However, this is definitely false. Carbon dioxide molecules are very small, way smaller than respiratory droplets. They cannot be trapped by breathable materials like cloth or face masks. This is the reason why surgeons wear face masks for extended periods of time because it is proven to protect against infectious pathogens while making sure the wearer can still breathe oxygen. Hence, your child wearing face masks will not trap carbon dioxide and cause trouble in his or her breathing.
Can Mask Help Your Kid When He or She Wears It?
As stated above, because most children are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, wearing face masks is still the primary protection of children. However, there are toddlers and young children who might feel uneasy about wearing masks. Most children do not understand the need to wear masks so it is natural for them to feel scared when forced to wear one. So even if most kids are now used to seeing people wearing masks, it is still important for parents to explain why they might need to wear a mask at school, childcare, and other public places. Even very young kids can learn that something that seemed scary at first is not scary after all.
To help kids wear masks when you go out, try to teach your kid how to put masks on and take them off. Remind your children that masks should always cover the nose and mouth. You can also make it fun and personal. For very young children, you can look for fun, colorful masks in many stores for them to wear. There are face masks with superhero characters, movie favorites, silly faces, or animal prints that can definitely encourage them to wear it.
However, as stated above, wearing face masks can be hard for very young children or for those with intellectual disabilities, sensory sensitivities, or mental health conditions. When at all possible, children who cannot bear wearing a mask should avoid being around others. For children younger than 2 years old, wearing of face masks is commonly not suggested because the child is unlikely to keep the mask in place. For older children, you should try to have the child wear a mask whenever they are around other people. If your child can only endure wearing a mask for a short time, then have your child wear a mask when he or she is in a public setting, especially when it is hard to keep a distance of 6 feet from other people such as while in line at school.
As a parent, it is important to know that children learn by copying the actions of others. With that, one of the most effective strategies to get a child to wear a mask is for parents and other caretakers to wear a mask. As a parent, it is important to set an example on how to properly wear a face mask, which means it covers both the nose and the mouth. Let your child choose his or her face masks so that he or she can also be more comfortable wearing it.
What type of mask should children wear?
Face masks definitely help your children stay protected against COVID-19. There are a lot of available face masks out there but a multilayer cloth mask or a child-sized medical mask are both excellent choices for your children. At the end of the day, the most vital thing when it comes to children is ensuring that they are wearing their face masks and ensuring that they are wearing it properly. This means that their face masks should always cover both their nose and their mouth completely. Furthermore, it should also be comfortable for them to wear for an extended period of time.
Also, it is important to make sure that you increase your child mask size as they grow, especially since your kid has probably grown over the last year since the pandemic started. On a daily basis, before going back to school, it is important to make sure the face masks properly fits their face. This means that it fits tightly on their face without areas with gaps or spaces. It is also important to make sure that the face masks are labeled with your child's name, so that they won’t be confusingly used by other children. A new clean mask should be utilized each day, and your child should always have an extra face mask easily available at school just in case their face mask becomes wet, dirty, or damaged.
For Children, face masks are still the primary protection against COVID-19, especially that they are still not eligible for vaccination. It is scientifically proven that these face masks are effective and do not hinder the breathing of your child. Face masks are tested to make sure that oxygen flows through it easily while filtering out infectious pathogens. With that, you can be assured that your child will not have trouble breathing when wearing a face mask even if they wear it for a long time.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2020. Mask Mythbusters: Common Questions about Kids & Face Masks. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Mask-Mythbusters.aspx. Retrieved on 20 August 2021.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021. Myths about Masks and Other Coronavirus Facial Coverings. Retrieved form: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/Myths-about-Masks-and-Other-Coronavirus-Facial-Cov. Retrieved on 20 August 2021.
- Kaiser Family Foundation. 2021. Science Shows Mask-Wearing Is Largely Safe for Children. Retrieved from: https://khn.org/news/article/science-shows-mask-wearing-is-largely-safe-for-children/. Retrieved on 20 August 2021.
- Munson Healthcare. 2021. Should Kids Wear Masks?. Retrieved from: https://www.munsonhealthcare.org/blog/should-kids-wear-masks. Retrieved on 20 August 2021.