All children over the age of 5 are required to use face coverings just as the adults do in shops, enclosed spaces, on public transport and anywhere where the social distancing measures can not be applied.
Should children wear face masks?
Although globally, the youngest population seems to be less affected by the COVID-19 spread, children are required now to wear face masks in most countries. Whilst some people may question its need in children, the vast majority approves of these measures.
The recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) states that children between 6-11 should use the face masks under adult supervision, whilst the ones aged 12 and above need to wear their protective mask just like the adults do.
Reasons why children should wear face masks:
- Children easily carry viruses between households affecting adults and vulnerable people.
- Social distancing is without a doubt the most impossible target to achieve by youngsters.
- Attending a playgroup, nursery or school leads to mixing with children that might carry airborne viruses (SARS, COVID, flu).
- Children tend to touch their faces more times than adults do, thus spreading germs around the nose, mouth and eye area.
- Highly sociable and effusive, children will hug their relatives or preferred people (babysitter, teacher, neighbours) before thinking about illnesses.
- Some children might have unknown underlying health conditions
The best face mask for children
Buying a suitable face covering for kids is as important as buying one for an adult.This means that attention should be given to the materials used in the mask, its conformity with the WHO recommendation of FFP2 grade and the sizing (adjusted for smaller faces).
Children can wear disposable or reusable face masks.
The disposable face masks are made of non-woven material, with 3 layers to offer protection from spreading viruses. These masks need to be disposed of in bins immediately after use (one use only) and hygiene measures should be taken : washing the hands or sanitizing.
Some shops sell disposable face masks for kids with cute designs to make them more attractive, made from non-allergenic material wrapped individually in packs. These are great for wearing as they are soft and don’t slip easily from the face, offering protection from respiratory viruses.
Advantages of using disposable kids face masks :
- Made of softer materials
- 3 ply and have FFP2 grade
- Good filter system
- Have a good grip
- Come in individual packs
- No washing up needed
Disadvantages of using disposable kids face masks:
- Might seem costly
- Disposed inappropriately, may spread viruses and bacteria
- Create more waste
Reusable face masks for children can be made at home from cotton (old t-shirts) and could be an interesting project for both parent and child. They can be customized in terms of fabric, colours, designs and size.
The best thing about a cloth face mask for kids is that this could prove more cost effective because it allows multiple usage by washing. Attention should then be paid to how the hygiene is kept during the wear, removal and washing the mask.
The advantages of reusable face masks for kids:
- Pieces of fabric can be found at home
- Larger variety of materials, colours and patterns can be found
- Can be infused with antimicrobial substance (found in pharmacies)
- Reduce waste
- Can be reused after washing and drying
The disadvantages of reusable face masks for kids:
- Children might remove them less carefully contaminating other surface/ clothes
- Thin materials used reducing the protective level
For children suffering from underlying health conditions, the option of wearing a medical mask that offers enhanced protection to the wearer.
The best masks for school kids
Going back to school seems a harder task now more than ever. The pressure of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic wave has affected children as much as it had its toll on the adults.
At school, children are more exposed to all kinds of contagious illnesses and viruses. The need to wear a face mask in the cramped areas such as the school corridors are, was understood by the government and approved for the beginning of the school year.
When choosing a mask for school aged children, have in mind the school’s uniform policy and the requirements in terms of colours, patterns and written logos or slogans. In general, schools don’t approve of anything that has slogans written on. The best option is to choose a simple non-branded cloth mask in black/white or a disposable face mask.
Depending on the child’s age and understanding of how to use the cover, parents should decide what type of mask is more suitable. For example, smaller children might be better in using disposable face coverings packed individually.
Teenagers could wear fabric face masks, although we all know that they can be as messy as the younger kids 🙂
How to dispose of a face mask
After wearing a disposable face mask, children should be taught about how the mask needs to be taken off, then disposed of in the bin without touching any other surfaces. They need to be reminded of the importance of following this by washing their hands (for 40 seconds) or disinfecting with hand gel (20 seconds).
In school, children should have paper towels or paper tissues with them which they can use to take their masks off and wrap the mask before throwing it in the rubbish bin.
How to store the reusable face masks
Storing a reusable face mask is an important step to teach children before going back to school. They need to know how to remove the mask by pulling the straps rather than the front of the mask and place it in its storage without risking any contamination to the inside area.
Face masks can be placed in zip up plastic bags, in plastic wallets or plastic pencil carriers.
At home, the washed and ironed masks can be kept in plastic bags. A good idea is to place in the bags a few dried lavender flowers to give the cloth a pleasant smell that lasts over the day.
All children should be taught to follow a good washing and disinfecting routine that should be kept throughout the day. Maintaining clean hands, avoiding touching the face, keeping the mask on the face-covering both the mouth and the nose are all important steps that everyone should follow to avoid spreading all airborne viruses.