Concerned or confused about when and where your child should wear a mask—and about how to get them to comply?
We spoke with our Carilion Children's Pediatrics team about the do's and don'ts of kids and masks:
Q: Should children wear masks?
A: We all should be wearing masks. It is one of the really good ways that we can protect ourselves and others and our children need to be wearing them, if it’s possible. As we all know there are some instances where it would be harder for a child to wear a mask and that’s if they’re under the age of two, or if they have special medical conditions that they should talk over with their pediatrician about to determine whether it’s safe or not for that child to wear a mask.
Masks are very safe and very breathable. We've had questions from people who've heard that they get expired carbon dioxide in them.
That does not happen with masks. Not with the cloth type, not with the surgical type.
They’re not going to have low oxygen or high carbon dioxide from wearing a mask.
Q: How can we help kids get used to wearing masks?
A: A mask can be fun, or it can be scary. What we need to do is help our kids play with a mask in many ways and prepare them for wearing it for extended periods of time.
Try having your child wear a mask for a short period of time while doing a fun activity. Continue to have your child pratice wearing it, up to about 30 minutes at a time, or until they can get comfortable with the feel of it.
For younger children, practicing with a loved stuffed animal like a teddy bear or a doll is a perfect way to start that conversation about wearing the mask.
Also, make sure that you’re wearing a mask and being a good role model for your child.
Q: How can kids feel empowered when wearing masks?
A: Make it fun and give them some sort of reward for their participation. Make cotton ones fun in color, make them fun with polka dots. But if you’re wearing a surgical mask, that can’t be decorated. That will cause you to lose integrity of the protection from the mask.
Q: Can kids share or trade masks?
A: You have to talk with your child about the importance of that mask being theirs and theirs alone, that it is like a hygiene matter. The way that we tell them not to share hats, not to share combs, not to share toothbrushes, your mask is the same way.
Q: How should kids store their masks at lunchtime?
A: It depends on how lunchtime is going to be at different schools. Some are not going to have cafeterias, but people will be eating at their desks. So you can imagine taking the mask off and placing it in the corner of the desk with the outside facing up, so that the outside part does not touch their desk.
If they’re going to be in a communal situation, then we suggest getting little paper bags. You can decorate the outside of the bags and have them place the mask inside the paper bag. That will keep it protected from their hands or others' hands touching it.
Q: Should they continue to wear the mask when they get off the bus to walk home?
If they’re walking in groups from the bus stop, then yes, probably so until they get into a protective site, either their car or their home.
Q: Should homes have a designated “used” mask area?
A: Having designated areas to drop off used masks is a great idea! Masks should always be washed after being worn once, so having an area or box or basket for them is a great way to keep used masks from potentially contaimating other surface areas of your home.
Q: How often should we wash masks?
Surgical masks cannot be washed. They’re disposable and should be thrown away at the end of every use. Be sure to also cut off the ear straps before throwing them away.
Cotton masks, especially for children, should be washed after they’re used. It's a good idea to have enough so that you can rotate them. Choose a fun color or design that represents each of the days of the week.