“It’s like a cape”: experts share ways to get children to practice mask hygiene

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A student gets off the bus at Bancroft Elementary School in Montreal on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson

September 03, 2020 – 5:30 a.m.

An expert in pediatrics and infectious diseases is giving advice to parents whose young children might be hesitant to wear face masks to school this fall.

Treat these face covers like a cape or shield – something a superhero could wear.

“Kids are more likely to take care of something if they own it, so if there is a way to personalize their mask – put a logo on it, have it in their favorite color – then do it.” said Dr. Anna Banerji, associate professor at the University of Toronto.

“It’s like a cape, isn’t it?” You say, ‘this is something to protect you and you have to take care of it.’ ”

The provinces have different guidelines for students wearing face masks.

Ontario has made facemasks mandatory in grades 4 to 12 in indoor common spaces, including classrooms, while Quebec students in grades 5 and up will wear them in all common areas, from except the classroom.

Alberta mandates masks for students in grades 4 to 12 in areas such as hallways and buses, and makes them optional for children in kindergarten to grade 3. Students in British Columbia, meanwhile, are not required to wear masks, although the province says it will respect someone’s staff. choice to wear one.

University of Alberta pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Allison Carroll says wearing a mask will only be one aspect of preventing COVID in schools and hand hygiene is increasingly becoming important for children who will constantly put on or remove masks from their faces.

Teaching children to wash their hands or use disinfectants before removing the mask is the first step, she says. Hands should also be washed or disinfected before putting on a mask.

It is also essential to have a clean, dry place to store a mask when not in use.

Carroll recommends an envelope or paper bag that can be kept on the corner of the child’s desk.

Tupperware containers or other non-breathable boxes are not recommended, she added. The same goes for attaching a face mask to a thong that can be worn around the neck.

“There is condensation that builds up on the mask while you are wearing it, so an enclosed space can potentially keep the mask wet,” Carroll said. “And lanyards are not recommended too much because masks can be contaminated if they are hung on them and come in contact with other surfaces. ”

Banerji says a thong, acting like a string that ties a pair of mittens together, might be a solution if a child has a tendency to lose things, however.

“It’s better to have a mask than no mask,” she says.

Misplaced masks can be solved by wrapping more than one. It will also help if one gets dirty during the day, Carroll said.

Experts suggest that parents begin teaching their children proper mask hygiene so that they are ready to wear them for long periods of the school day.

Getting them used to the feeling of wearing a mask can be done gradually, Carroll says, starting by covering only their mouths, before moving them over their noses.

“Once they’re comfortable with it, you can get them to do activities like walking outside, doing homework at home, things they’ll do in a school environment,” she says.

Explaining why the new rules are in effect can help ease any anxiety a child may have about wearing a mask, Banerji added.

“We must reassure the children:” the masks are there to protect you. The new procedures are in place to protect you and your friends, “” she said. “If the parents are very anxious, it fuels the anxiety of the child. It is therefore very important that parents remain calm. ”

As for the mask itself, experts say comfort, fit and breathability are important, noting that standard off-the-shelf masks in a store may be too large for a child’s small face. Heavy fabrics should be avoided.

Masks with earrings are recommended over ties for young children who may not have the ability to deal with knots on their own. Long ropes can also be dangerous by posing a strangulation hazard, Carroll says.

Parents can now standardize mask wearing as much as possible around their children, Carroll says, and that reinforcement should continue once school begins.

“Children are incredibly adaptable and they are role models of friends and role models,” she said. “So it’s important to have positive attitudes from families and teachers, and I hope they will get positive attitudes from their peers as well. ”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 2, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020

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