Kids and Masks :: Helpful Tips from Children’s of Alabama

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A year ago, we’d never have dreamed we’d be discussing proper mask wearing with our children. Yet, here we are, still in the middle of the global pandemic that is COVID-19. With schools, sports, and other extracurricular activities starting back, our kids need advice on proper mask protocol.

Thankfully, Children’s of Alabama is here today to offer us all the mask information we could ever need!

Masks for Kids: Why and How

Why Kids Need Masks

  • Kids need to be in school — for their mental health and ours.
  • Kids can catch and spread COVID-19.
  • Masking is a straightforward, safe, and effective tool to help prevent outbreaks in schools.
  • Masking can be used in addition to other strategies for prevention of viral spread like physical distancing, good hand hygiene, screening for illness, and rapid response to any symptoms. The more tools we use, the better chance we have to contain COVID-19.
  • From a healthcare perspective, masks play a large role in determining who is at risk after a COVID-19 exposure.
  • Universal masking in schools could prevent large-scale school quarantines/closures when COVID-19 is found in some students.
  • Kids under two years old should not wear masks. If your child has a serious health condition, check with your doctor to find out if masking is appropriate.

How to Teach Our Kids to Mask Up

  • Masking is a new skill and needs to be taught.
  • Kids need time to learn and adapt to this new skill before they are expected to implement it for extended periods of time.
  • Learning to mask properly is not a skill that can or should be taught the first day of school.
  • Teachers can then reinforce the skills learned at home.
  • If most kids can learn this skill at home, good peer modeling can help kids who are not able to master masking at home.

Tips to Help Kids Learn to Mask

  • Talk with your child about masking. Explain why it is important; how it can help keep everyone safe, healthy, and help us get back to our previous activities.
  • Choose a mask from the wide variety of masks available. Kids may be more likely to try a mask if they have helped pick it out. The goal is a piece of fabric that can cover the nose and mouth and stay in place with normal movement and talking.
  • Ideally, your child should have several masks to wear throughout the week.
  • Wash the masks before wearing.
  • Masks are like underwear and shouldn’t be worn more than one time between washings. And like underwear, discuss with your child that masks are not to be shared with friends, loaned, or traded.
  • Consider getting a reusable plastic container or disposable paper lunch bags for mask storage at school when not in use.
  • To practice masking, start by having your child wear a mask for 10-15 minutes, 3 times a day. Increase the wear time every day if possible.
  • Practice removing the mask and folding it so that the inside/face-side of the mask does not touch the outside of the mask. Once it is folded properly, it is ready to be stored between wears.
  • Practice wearing the mask while talking, jumping, and playing around inside.

If your child complains of shortness of breath with short duration of mask wear, consult your pediatrician for further guidance. Never force continuous wear.

Note for teens: They may struggle with “maskne,” which is acne related to masking. Using masks made with wicking fabric and an over-the-counter acne wash may help prevent this. Consult your pediatrician or dermatologist if this becomes an issue.