Seems like this masking moment is here to stay for awhile. Even squirmy, busy kids need to know how to safely wear and take care of a mask — especially when they are out of your sight.
Practice at Home
According to Felicia Scaggs Huang, M.D., associate director of infection prevention and control at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, practicing safe mask-wearing at-home can role model correct behavior and make it seem fun.
“Make it fun by designing a mask out of craft supplies for a favorite stuffed animal to wear,” Huang says.
Additionally, parents should instruct kids on why mask wearing is important to keep our germs to ourselves and not share with others, she explains.
“Practicing at-home can also help your child learn to not touch her face when wearing a mask to avoid contaminating herself,” Huang says.
Educate Yourself First
Before you teach your kids, learn this new skill yourself. According to Huang, before the pandemic, most of us never thought about how to wear a mask out in public, and the data on cloth masks is unfortunately limited.
“However, research is starting to suggest that cloth masks can offer protection against SARS-CoV-2 by catching your phlegm and saliva if you are shedding the virus,” she says. “This is especially helpful for people who do not know they are sick because they do not yet have symptoms (presymptomatic) or never develop symptoms (asymptomatic).”
More research does need to be done to determine if cloth masks can actually protect others if you cough or sneeze on them (or you!). Do your research and turn to sources such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which regularly updates maskwearing, washing and more, according to Huang.
Putting on the Mask
Teach your kids to always wash their hands before putting their mask on. Next, put the mask over their nose and mouth then secure it in place using the ear loops or ties, says Huang. Making sure it is nice and snug over the bridge of their little nose is important as well. Follow a similar process when removing masks, too, she continues. Or attach a lanyard to your child’s mask so they don’t lose it in between wearing it. Mask lanyards can be found on Amazon.
Educate your kids about the importance of not touching their face even when wearing a mask as the virus can still spread when they rub their sleepy eyes (which is hard to avoid) so hand washing is very important in this circumstance.
Masks in the Heat
“Fortunately, situations that may make you most overheated in the summer are also when you may be able to take off your mask,” says Huang. “This includes when walking, hiking, kayaking, or riding bicycles outdoors.” What do these activities all have in common? You can easily social distance. Playgrounds, however, are a bit more tricky. If the area is crowded, have your kids wear their masks and consider heading out during nonpeak hours of the day.
“Hydration is always a concern during the summer,” she continues. “Remind your child to drink every time she is thirsty to avoid becoming dehydrated.”
MASK CONTROL FOR KIDS
• Have at least two cloth masks per child. If you need to wash one, you can still use the other one.
• Have your child wash her hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that’s 60 percent alcohol.
•Teach your child to put on her mask by grasping the ear loops.
• Have your child wash her hands again.
• Teach hand-washing any time you put on or take off your mask.