Face Coverings and Children
Dr. Rob Kidnie is a Family Medicine Resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Prior to becoming a physician, he spent thirteen years as an Army Officer. Dr. Rob Kidnie is answering some hard questions about daily life under COVID-19 and is offering ways we can protect our loved ones and help slow the spread.
Let’s face it, sometimes getting your little ones to do anything can be a struggle. It goes without saying that getting them to wear something many adults complain about will almost certainly pose a challenge. As your children get older however, it becomes increasingly important that they do practice good hygiene and wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s worthwhile reviewing some of the recommendations around children and face coverings here. Much of the following information comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) website and I would encourage all parents to check it out for the most up-to-date recommendations.
When not to wear masks:
- The AAP state that children under the age of 2 years should not wear cloth face coverings.
When your children do not need to wear masks:
- At home, assuming they have not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19.
- Outside, as long as they can stay at least 6 feet away from others and can avoid touching surfaces.
When your children should wear masks:
- Anywhere they may not be able to avoid staying 6 feet away from others (i.e. grocery stores, the doctor’s office, department stores, etc).
When to reconsider wearing a mask:
- If the face covering poses a choking or strangulation hazard.
- If your children touch their faces more frequently with the mask on than without it.
It’s understandable that your children may resist wearing a face covering at first because they are scared of it or just don’t understand why they have to keep it on. Here are some things you can try to make the face covering a little less scary.
- Set the example. This is by far the most important thing. Like wearing a helmet when on a bike, if your children see you wearing your mask, they will be more inclined to try it themselves.
- Involve your children. Have them pick out the design or pattern they like and let them decorate their own masks.
- Make it “normal”. Put a cloth face covering on a stuffed animal or draw their favorite cartoon or YouTube characters with masks on.
- Introduce it gradually. Try it on in front of the mirror at home and wear it around the house for a few days before going out.
- Talk about it. If you’re not sure where to start with your children when it comes to discussing COVID-19 and why we wear masks, you can check out healthychildren.org or the CDC website.