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If you’ve ever tried to persuade a willful toddler to wear sunglasses or a hat on a sunny day, you know how tricky it can be to get kids to do something they don’t want to. Convincing a young child to wear a face mask may feel like a similar struggle.
But to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that nearly everyone ages 2 and older wear a face mask when they’re out in a public place, such as at the grocery store. But there are an few exceptions that we’ll cover.
This is because a face mask may help capture infectious droplets. But while a face mask may not completely protect you or your child and other family members from getting an infectious disease, it can help reduce the chances you’ll infect others if you do happen to have the virus with or without symptoms.
Which Children Should Wear a Mask
Keep in mind that the CDC recommends that children under age 2 not wear a face mask because of the danger of suffocation.
Some children over age 2 may also not be advised to wear a face mask, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to take their child into consideration. If you think having your child wear a cloth face mask is a possible choking or strangulation hazard, or causes your child to touch his or her face more often, the AAP recommends reconsidering the use of a cloth face covering in those cases.
Where Children Should Wear a Face Mask
Generally, the CDC recommends that everyone ages 2 or older wear a face mask when leaving the house, regardless of whether symptoms are present. Here are the specific recommendations for different places outside of your home.
Child Care or School
If your child attends a childcare facility, the CDC recommends that staff and older children (those over age 2) wear face coverings. Your child may be required to wear a face mask at school, depending on each facility’s guidelines.
The CDC recognizes that face coverings may be difficult for students, especially younger students, to wear all day. Still, they are recommended as much as possible, especially when in situations where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.
According to the AAP, venturing outside can offer mask-free opportunities. Children don’t need to wear a cloth face mask when they’re outside as long as they can:
Stay at least 6 feet from others
Avoid touching surfaces, such as playground equipment, water fountains, touch tables or other things infected people may have touched
That means your child can be mask-free if you’re taking a walk together and your child stays 6 feet away from others. But if you’re at the playground filled with tempting equipment, your child should probably wear a mask.
Talk with your kids about practicing all the important ways to help stay healthy, including wearing a mask when appropriate, social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Tips to Encourage Your Child to Wear a Mask
Face masks seem scary for some kids, while others may simply not want to wear one. Here are tips to encourage children to wear them when needed.
Lead by example. If you have a toddler over age 2 or a preschooler, introduce the concept of wearing a face mask by putting one on at home with your child. A little practice for a few days can help kids feel comfortable wearing a mask before they actually need it.
Keep it positive. Answer your child’s questions about masks simply in a way your child can understand. You might say, for example, that wearing a mask when we go to the grocery store helps keep us healthy. Or, that by wearing a mask, you’re helping others stay healthy and being a good helper in the community. Your child just might feel proud to wear a mask.
Make it playful. Incorporate a face mask as part of your child’s playtime — put a face mask on a favorite stuffed animal or doll. Have your child play with the masked stuffed animal or doll for a day or two until the mask seems less noticeable. Have your child draw face masks on animals in coloring books, too.
Get creative. Decorate the mask with your child. Markers can turn your child’s disposable mask into art and make wearing it more fun.
Show others modeling mask-wearing. Do so by showing your child pictures of other kids and adults wearing masks. A quick Google or social media search can show your child lots of examples of others just like him. “See, everybody’s wearing one!”
Make it fun. Whether you’re making your own masks or buying them, try to choose a pattern that your child likes. Think kid-friendly superheroes, favorite characters, animals, cars and trucks or a favorite color, and then talk it up. “Look, it has dinosaurs on it!” Try finding one for yourself in a matching pattern or color to show your child you’re in this together.
Make it comfy. If your child complains that a mask is uncomfortable, try a different style, such as a mask with ties instead of elastic around the ears.
How to Get the Right Fit
Once your child is used to the idea of wearing a mask in public, talk with them about how to wear a cloth face mask correctly. Remind them that it should cover both your nose and mouth. Before helping your child put on a face mask, help them wash their hands. Help your child fit the mask over their mouth and nose and make sure it is snug against the sides of their face.
Encourage your child not to touch the face covering when it’s on his face and to wash his hands if he does. Then, ask your child if he can breathe easily. If everything’s all good, give your child an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Once your outing is over and you’re home again, be sure to praise your child for doing such a good job wearing his or her mask. Positive reinforcement can empower kids to keep up the good work.
We’re Here to Help Protect You
Providing face masks for all of our patients and visitors upon entering our facilities is one way that we’re taking steps to make everyone safe while accessing our care. You’ll find that our staff and providers will be wearing face masks at all times, too.
We hope you find peace of mind knowing that we’ve put additional safety measures into place at all of our facilities.
Some of these include:
Separate treatment areas for patients with COVID-19 and/or symptoms
Social distancing to keep everyone 6 feet apart
Temperature testing for all visitors at all entrances
Learn more about our Children’s Care and how we’re healing while protecting your whole health.