With students returning to campus amidst of the COVID-19 crisis, a new item has been added to most school supply lists: face coverings. To help parents choose the right masks for their children, we turned to BayCare Pediatric Service Line Medical Director, Dr. Christina Canody.
When should children wear face coverings?
Children 2 years and over should wear face coverings when out of the home in public places, especially indoor spaces. When playing outdoors, face coverings are recommended when not able to social distance from non-household members. Children under 2 years of age should not wear masks due to the risk of suffocation. If your child has a chronic medical concern or developmental delay, it is best to discuss wearing a face covering with your pediatrician.
What should parents look for when purchasing a face covering for their children to wear to school?
In general, any face covering is better than none at all. However, differences in the type of material and fit can affect the spread of respiratory droplets that spread the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
- A double layer cotton face mask that fits snug along the nose, cheeks of face and chin is preferred.
- A nose piece or fabric sewn to fit the nose is helpful. Be sure that it does not ride up over the eyes as this could block vision.
- Kids tend to do better with coverings that have ear or neck straps rather than ties. Adjustable straps are helpful for younger children as well.
- Teach children to avoid touching the middle of the face covering and always hold it by the earpieces, straps or outside edge to avoid contamination.
- It should not be pulled down to the neck over the chin. Always fold it inside out and place in pocket or clean plastic bag before storing in backpack or book bag.
Many masks are available online and at local retailers, some even with patterns to make your own. Make sure to wash hands before placing and removing the face covering.
Have your kids practice wearing the face covering to get used to it. This will also help you assess how it fits when you are active. Try different styles to see what works the best for your child. Allow your child to have some input on fabric, color, style and decorations to enhance their desire to keep it on when necessary.
Should children wear face coverings to participate in sports?
Face coverings can be worn for sports depending on the activity. Coaches, officials and those not participating should wear a face covering at all times. Everyone should also wear masks before and after the activity. When not on the field, athletes should wear a face covering and social distance when possible. For vigorous or high-intensity activity, a face covering is not recommended and social distancing should be a priority. Face coverings should not be worn for water sports or in activities where the face covering could get caught and cause injury or block vision such as cheer or gymnastics. For outside sports, especially in the Florida heat, the risk of heat-related illness must also be considered—face coverings could pose an increased risk.
Face coverings should be washed after each use/day. For those participating in sports, a separate face covering is recommended during the activity. Be sure to have an extra available for your child and consider a more breathable fabric to encourage wear. Kids will be more likely to use the face covering if it is comfortable.
What is the most important tip parents should share with their children regarding how to protect themselves from COVID-19?
The most important thing is to educate children about how we can each do our part to protect each other from COVID-19. Wearing a face covering is a way to show others that we care about them and want them to stay safe. Additionally, parents should remind children to wash their hands frequently, sneeze and cough into their elbow, keep their hands away from their face, and avoid sharing space and toys with others.