Back to School Tips on the Use of Masks
Advice for parents as children return to school
As summer comes to an end and the reality of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic continues, parents must better understand the use of masks among children in order to better prepare their children to safely return to school.
Currently, research on the benefits and harms of children wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is limited. While some evidence suggests that young children may have a lower risk of infection compared to adults; some of the available data suggests that this may vary by age. Overall, the benefits for children wearing masks for protection must be considered along with the potential harms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have developed a report on the use of masks based on a risk-based approach. It is recommended that wearing masks in addition to complying with physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and adequate ventilation in indoor settings is essential for reducing the spread of the virus. Below, you will find advice on the use of masks among children compiled by experts in this report.
Tips for determining whether your child should wear mask
1. Children up to 5 years old should not wear masks due to:
- Potentially impacting childhood developmental milestones
- Lack of autonomy required to use a mask properly
2. Children between 6 to 11 years old, different factors should be considered including:
- Intensity of transmission in the area where the child lives in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s recommendations
- The ability of the child to practice the appropriate use of masks and the presence of adult supervision to ensure proper mask use
3. Children 12 years or older should follow the WHO guidance for mask use in adults with consideration to:
- Potential adaptations needed in special settings such as households with elderly relatives, schools, sport activities or for children with disabilities or underlying diseases
4. Children of any age with developmental disorders, disabilities or other specific health conditions:
- The use of masks should not be mandatory and should be assessed on a case by case basis by the child’s educator and/or medical provider
- For some children, it can have a potential impact on learning and psychosocial development, (source) for example, the ability of some children to communicate, understand, and mirror the expressions and social cues that they are learning. Parents should consult with and follow their doctors’ orders and may need to provide schools with documentation of their doctor’s recommendations.
- Clear masks or face shields will allow lipreading for children who are deaf or hard of hearing
Overall, parents must review the recommendations set by the Ministry of Education in order to best prepare their children as they return to school and educate them on the proper use of masks. Medical masks are recommended for children under certain conditions, such as children with immunocompromised health conditions, but children with respiratory impairments should not be required to wear masks.
To properly store reusable, fabric masks before they are washed, it is recommended that families put these masks in separate containers or bags designated for each child. Medical masks can only be used once; thus it is recommended for families to have a regular supply of masks available for their children to use as needed.
To learn more on the use of masks among children, read the full report from The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Russian.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government