As families nationwide reach for homemade fabric face coverings to wear in public to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s important to remember that these cloth face coverings are not recommended for all children, particularly babies and toddlers. Most children will be able to wear a mask safely by age 3, but every child is different.
Using a cloth face covering on an infant, whose airway is small, can increase the risk of suffocation.
Earlier this month, authorities with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new recommendation for people to wear cloth face coverings or cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This applies to situations like visiting the grocery store or picking up a prescription from inside a pharmacy. However, you also need to remember that use of a cloth face covering is not intended to replace other recommended measures to stop the community spread of COVID-19, such as washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, and practicing social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people.
Since the CDC’s announcement, cloth face coverings of all shapes and sizes have appeared in online stores.
Cloth face coverings may be safe for older children. However, children should not wear a cloth face covering in the following situations:
- If the child is a baby or toddler (due to suffocation risks).
- If the cloth face covering poses any choking or strangulation hazards.
- If the child is unable to remove the cloth face covering on their own.
- If the child is having difficulty breathing.
- If the child is unconscious.
- If wearing the cloth covering causes the child to touch their face more frequently, which increases their risk of becoming infected.
If you need to take your infant into a public place where you cannot practice social distancing, use an infant carrier that’s covered by a blanket. Make sure the blanket is not covering your baby’s face. This will offer some protection while still allowing them to breathe comfortably. Do not leave the blanket covering the infant carrier when you’re in the car or at any time that the carrier is not in your direct line of sight.
For some children, wearing a cloth face covering may seem a little scary. Some children may not want to wear a cloth face covering because it makes them feel different. Parents can help ease their fears by putting a cloth face covering on themselves and explaining how it works. Other ideas include putting a cloth face covering on a child’s stuffed animal or doll and drawing it on their favorite book character.
In order to offer protection, cloth face coverings should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops.
- Include multiple layers of fabric.
- Allow for breathing without restriction.
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
Removal and cleaning tips:
- Do not touch eyes, nose, or mouth when removing a cloth face covering.
- Immediately wash your hands after removing.
- Routinely wash your cloth face covering.
Remember, staying home is your best protection. Anyone who has a fever along with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms such as cough, congestion, runny nose, diarrhea, or vomiting should isolate themselves and go out only to seek medical attention.
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