Dr Asmita Mahajan, Consultant Neonatologist & Pediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate
Wearing a mask is one of the most critical defense against COVID19. However, kids, especially infants tend to get quite restless while wearing a mask. Here is what is best for your kids at various ages.
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that kids under the age 5yrs need not wear masks. Kids that age cannot handle a mask correctly or use or discard them in the right manner. But there are exceptions. If the child is sick or is close to someone who is ill, he or she should wear a mask under adult supervision. Please note, wearing a mask does not affect oxygen level or carbon dioxide level in blood as all masks are designed to be breathable.
Kids between 6-11yrs should wear masks but may need adult supervision, and the decision may depend on the impact on their learning and psychosocial development too. Children of 12yrs and over should follow same rules as adults. However, for kids with developmental disorders or disabilities, the decision is to be made on a case-to-case basis.
TYPE OF MASK TO WEAR: While deciding for kids, we should look for comfort, fit and filtration-in that order, because if the mask is not comfortable, the child is never going to wear it. Children with underlying health conditions like Cystic Fibrosis or Cancer which compromise their immunity, should always wear a surgical mask. It helps to save the child from contracting an infection from the virus or from infected persons.
Children in good health can wear a fabric mask as per the guidelines suggested above. It is basically to prevent the child from infecting others. It’s ideal if the ear loops are adjustable to ensure better fit and comfort.
- A good option is to “double mask”. Wear a cloth mask on a surgical mask. The surgical mask gives better filtration and the cloth mask helps to hold the edges of the surgical one better to the kid’s face
- Face shield is used at times in smaller kids, or where masking is not possible. But it does not provide equal amount of protection as there is no air seal. While buying face shields, please note that it should cover the entire face, wrap around the face on both sides snugly, and should reach below the chin
- N95 masks are the best for protection but are not being widely made to fit kids. If you buy them online, vet the product thoroughly as many masks are claimed to be N95 but are not in reality
- N95 and surgical mask are not being currently widely made in kid’s sizes, it’s best to use a well-fitting cloth mask or to double mask as written above
STEPS FOR WEARING A MASK:
- Always chose a washed and dried cloth mask for wearing
- Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water or clean your hands for at least 20 seconds using an alcohol-based sanitizer
- The mask should be of the correct size to cover the nose, mouth, and chin and should fit comfortably
- Never touch the front of the mask or pull it under the chin or into their mouth
- After removing the mask, it is advised that kids should be taught to store it in a Ziplock bag. And they should wash their hands again
WEARING MASKS AT HOME:
- Needed only if the child is sick and has symptoms suggestive of COVID19
- Or is within a 1-meter distance of an adult positive for COVID19
WEARING MASKS DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES OR SPORTS: Now, many parents are concerned when kids go out to play. Please note that kids can avoid mask if running or jumping or playing on playground, but kids should maintain least 1 meter distance between each other.