Submitted by Dr. John Maddox, Pediatrician, Pentucket Medical/ Haverhill
1. Can wearing a mask make it harder for my child to breathe?
Recommended cloth face coverings do not block the exchange of oxygen or carbon dioxide. The vast majority of children age 2 or older can safely wear a cloth face covering for extended periods of time; this includes children with many medical conditions. Begin now having your child wear masks at home. Start with short periods, when they are doing their favorite activities, and gradually increase the length of time, so they get used to it. All schools will offer mask breaks.
2. Can masks themselves spread germs?
Masks get damp over time, from the same respiratory droplets that spread COVID, flu and other germs, so face coverings should washed regularly. It is important to have cloth face coverings that fit a child’s face well, so that they are not tampering with the mask. You should perform hand hygiene before and after touching your face covering.
3. Can a child with special health care needs, like the autism spectrum, wear a mask?
Some children will need extra attention to the way a mask feels and fits and smells. Some kids will benefit from strategies like Social Story (see below), which help explain new situations with both descriptions and directives. Schools are prepared for some students with special needs to be unable to wear masks full-time right away. Occupational therapists and applied behavior therapists will work with students to teach them new and important skills.
4. Should a kid wear a mask during sports?
Cloth face coverings help young athletes protect their teammates and themselves. They also help protect the sports season. Whenever safe and possible, athletes should wear a cloth face covering. This includes on the sideline bench, in team chats and going to and from the field. Exceptions include when they are actively exercising.
5. Do masks really prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Cloth face coverings are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID, flu and other germs. Very early on in the pandemic, there was concern about having enough masks for health care workers, so widespread mask use was discouraged. However, it is very clear now that states, communities, and schools that have contained COVID— despite imperfect social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene— have used cloth face coverings to prevent spread, even in asymptomatic people.