From the everyday heroes like doctors and nurses to the fictional crime-fighting icons like Batman and Iron Man, wearing a mask to protect oneself and others may not be a new concept to some children. However, what could have just been a game of make-believe is now a very real social responsibility; children of 2 years and older should wear masks to safeguard their health and the health of others, as outlined here by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sponsored website Healthychildren.Org.
Some caregivers may be apprehensive about this because of the myths surrounding mask usage, but as Healthychildren.org explains, masks do not make it difficult to breathe if the “cloth masks are made from breathable materials that will not block the oxygen your child needs,” nor do masks trap carbon dioxide because “carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even smaller than respiratory droplets.” In fact, the APP outlines “cloth face coverings can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including the vast majority of children with special health conditions, with rare exception.” These exceptions may be, for instance, children with severe or chronic illnesses. In those cases, The Los Angeles Times feature article on the matter suggests that parents or guardians in these instances should refer to their respective healthcare provider for “guidance on the most appropriate type and approach to wearing a face covering for their [child’s] needs.” For the large majority of children though, cloth face coverings will be a part of the new normal.
Children are often in environments that require close proximity to others, such as classrooms and playgrounds, so it is important that parents and caregivers understand the importance of personal protective equipment for the whole family. HealthyChildren.org highlights that much of the concerns about mask wearing can be addressed by wearing the mask properly, that is placing the mask “securely over the nose and mouth and stretch it from ear to ear” with having it fit “snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face, and be held on with ear loops or ties.”
Following the general guidelines for safe and effective mask usage, such as using breathable material that is easy to remove, means caregivers can rest assured that the mask usage will not cause any issues. In fact, cloth masks usage is essential to protecting their child and others from virus exposure, and it could be important to explain that to the child as well. Proper mask usage to protect others may end up being their own small way they can play heroes for a bit.