Do you recall feeling that the miracle (it literally seemed that way here in Canada due to vaccine shortages in the first half of 2021) of getting a Covid vaccine would free you from wearing a mask? Well, as I write this at the end of August, masks are still a thing. We have the rise of the Delta variant, and children under age 12 returning to school in early September unable to be vaccinated. Masks are going to be part of our daily routine for the foreseeable future. I have been getting a lot of questions about kids wearing masks in school.
What are the benefits of your child wearing a mask?
- Protection for your child and others around them from Covid-19 exposure
- Protects from other viruses like RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and parainfluenza virus (causes croup)
- Protection from upcoming influenza season (expected to increase this year due to return of travel)
- By decreasing the number of children with symptomatic respiratory illnesses, we hope to keep more kids in school. This should result in fewer children requiring testing or quarantining (and fewer days parents need to stay home from work).
What age should children begin masking?
Pediatric experts recommend a mask for anyone over age 2. And you should teach your child how to don and doff their mask.
What type of mask should kids wear?
A multilayer cloth mask or a child-sized medical mask are both acceptable. Make sure they are wearing it correctly. That means the mask needs to cover the mouth and nose completely. You want it to feel comfortable, and not have any large gaping areas.
So your child has grown over the past 18 months since you first had to buy masks. Just like they have outgrown their shoes, your kid may need a larger mask now. Before school starts, have them try on their masks to ensure proper fit.
How does a mask cause skin dysfunction?
The microenvironment under a mask is really different from baseline normal skin. There is increased moisture from breathing, and increased microbial circulation under a mask. Yuck! In addition, we remove and reapply a mask multiple times a day. A vicious cycle of wet/dry facial skin may lead to breakdown of the delicate skin barrier.
To minimize mask induced irritation I recommend:
- Use a gentle cleanser
- Avoid over exfoliating (think teenagers and their love of scrubs)
- Apply a light moisturizer before school. This creates a barrier between the skin and the mask.
Tips for Kids Wearing a Mask to School
- I recommend one mask for morning and one for after lunch. Kids talk, yell and laugh: their mask will get moist.
- If your child tends to be a little careless, consider sending a third mask in the event a mask is lost, damaged, soiled, dropped or otherwise contaminated.
- Your child will need a bag or container to store their clean masks. Where will they store their mask during recess or lunch?
- Cloth masks should be washed after a day at school.
- Kids tend to be rough: make sure the ear loops or ties are in good condition.
The bottom line is masks are here to stay. So teach your child to wear them correctly to stay safe, protect others, and to minimize skin irritation and rashes.