Experts Share Recommendations For Kids and Masks As Back to School Time Approaches

It’s back to school time for kids across the country. Many kids have already started school this year and others will be starting in the near future.

While the back to school shopping list may vary by grade and school, one popular shopping list item this year is child-size face masks. Many schools require children to wear face masks. Even if they don’t, many parents want their children to wear face masks in order to be as protected as possible from catching or transmitting Covid-19.

It might be easy to assume that an N95 face mask would be the best one to get for your child. After all, isn’t that what doctors wear?

According to experts, the problem with N95 face masks is that they are not designed for children. Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at University of Chicago Medicine, told Good Morning America, “Absolutely an N95 that has been fitted to you provides the most protection. They don’t really make child size N95s and unless you’ve gone through the fit testing, it doesn’t really provide any extra protection.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Richard Malley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, explained, N95 masks on a child may not fit and even if they do fit, they’re not as comfortable. We don’t want to be recommending masks that kids are not willing to wear.”

When it comes to choosing a face mask for your child, the most important factor, according to the experts, is choosing a face mask that your child is willing to wear. That means that the face mask needs to be comfortable and fit the face properly. It may also help if the face mask is a color the child likes or has a character the child likes on it. Malley recommends letting your child pick out the face mask. Go to a store together or look online together and let your child show you which masks he or she likes.

Bartlett explained, “It all comes down to if they’re not going to wear it, it doesn’t matter how high quality the mask is. A well-fitted cloth mask works much better than a poorly-fitted surgical mask.”

It is important to make sure the masks you and your child choose are not only comfortable but also fit well. Malley explained, “You want something that covers the nose and mouth and when they speak or laugh, that the mask is not falling off their face. You want the jaw to be able to move.”

According to Bartlett, “Sometimes fabric masks work better [than surgical masks] because they fit better and are softer or more comfortable to fit the face.”

While an N95 mask is not necessary, you do want to make sure that the mask is doing its job. An easy test is to hold the mask up to the sun, stretch it and see if sunlight shines through it. If you can see light coming through the mask, it is not thick enough. Choose a different mask.

When you find a mask that passes the sun test, that your child likes and that fits your child well, make sure you get more than one. Your child will need multiple masks. It’s a good idea to send your child to school with at least one extra mask every day and to make sure you wash the masks after they have been worn. Make sure you buy enough masks that you always have clean masks ready to go.

Will your children be wearing face masks to school? Does it surprise you that an N95 mask isn’t necessary? Does your child have a favorite face mask?