Wearing a face mask is the most common public measure to protect against COVID-19, but its relevance to children is sometimes misunderstood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, face masks can help block the transmission of respiratory droplets from an infected person, but two groups of people are exempt from public cover-up: children under 2 and those have difficulty breathing or who cannot remove their mask without assistance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics adds that in some situations, children (over the age of two) do not need masks “as long as they can stay at least 6 feet from others and avoid touching surfaces. For example, it is good to go for a walk as long as your children stay within 6 feet of others and do not touch tables, water fountains, play equipment, or anything else that the infected could have touched. “
The recommendations for face masks have changed this year – in April, after learning that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVD-19) can spread among people without symptoms or those who have not yet developed from symptoms, the CDC said that everyone should cover their faces in public. Previously, the health facility considered masks only necessary for sick people or caring for patients who could not wear them.
The reason why children – especially 2-year-olds – are excluded from the guidelines is practical, says Dara Kass, MD, medical collaborator at Yahoo News. “Face masks protect when close to others and children under the age of 2 should generally not be at risk [of contamination] if they are trapped in a stroller or baby carrier, “she told Yahoo Lifestyle.
There are also security reasons.
According to Andy J. Bernstein, M.D., a doctor at North Suburban Pediatrics in Chicago, toddlers have smaller airways than older children and adults, which matters if a mask is obstructed or is too tight. “Children under the age of two cannot easily remove it and because their airways are smaller, they do not have as many reserves if they do not get enough oxygen and [therefore] have a higher risk of suffocation, “says Bernstein. “A child under the age of two would probably not be able to communicate if the fabric suffocated them. Therefore, small children are more at risk of having problems, whether they breathe or cannot remove the mask. “
It is for this reason that the CDC recommends that anyone who cannot easily remove a mask themselves not wear one. After the age of two, many children have developed communication skills that allow them to better report discomfort, says Kass.
Although parents should avoid putting children under the age of two in masks to be safe, Bernstein says guidelines for toddlers should not scare the general public. According to Reuters, there have been warnings on social media about the prolonged use of masks causing hypercapnia – the inhalation of expelled carbon dioxide which causes headaches and dizziness – but a CDC representative said at the point of sale: “You might have a headache, but you most likely [would] not suffer from the symptoms seen at much higher levels of CO2. The mask can become uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, including sensitivity to CO2, and the person will be motivated to remove the mask. Wearing a mask is unlikely to cause hypercapnia. “
Overall, Bernstein recommends that parents stay focused on CDC guidelines, not on social media. “Face masks are not designed or studied for infants and children under the age of two,” he says. “So if they are sold as such, it is probably marketing and not patient safety. “
For the latest news and updates on coronaviruses, follow at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. Experts over the age of 60 and those who are immunocompromised remain the most exposed. If you have any questions, please refer to CDC‘sand WHO resource guides.
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