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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that we wear cloth face coverings to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus (COVID-19) when leaving our houses. But what about kids? Should children wear masks too?
The short answer is yes, children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering when they’re in places outside their homes where social distancing (staying 6 feet away from people) is not possible, such as the pharmacy or grocery store. Because children often have milder COVID-19 symptoms – or even no symptoms – masks are important to help kids prevent the spread of the virus within their families and communities.
The good news is that if you’re in an environment where your kids can easily stay at least 6 feet away from other people – like a soccer field or remote hiking trail – they do not need to wear a face covering. Masks are also unnecessary inside the house.
But remember: Medical masks and N-95 respirators are still reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, so please only use cloth masks!
The right way to wear a mask
Because face coverings are used to prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others, it’s important to make sure your child’s mask fits properly. Pleated face coverings with elastic work best for kids. Try to find a child-sized mask, if possible.
The mask should fully cover the nose and mouth and stretch from ear to ear to help reduce the chance of transmitting the virus through the spray of virus-laden respiratory droplets when talking, coughing or sneezing.
Other masking tips include:
- Wash your hands before and after you wear a mask.
- Avoid touching the mask when it’s on your face.
- Cloth face coverings should not be worn when eating or drinking.
- Remove your mask from behind without touching the front. Wash it after you wear it.
Getting younger kids to wear masks
Some kids will be open to wearing masks while others will downright refuse. Tips for getting your little one to wear a face covering include:
- Explain why people are wearing masks and why it’s important.
- Set an example by wearing a mask yourself.
- Try putting a face covering on their favorite stuffed animal.
- Decorate the face covering so it’s more personalized.
- Offer lots of positive reinforcement, and perhaps even rewards, when your child does wear a mask.
- Practice wearing the face covering at home to help your child get used to it.