In the world of kids, it becomes tough to apply adult hygiene and health rules. However, the Covid-19 crisis has forced the whole world to deal with new public health measures of wearing personal protective equipment —face masks, face shields, and gloves. But, do these same corona measures apply to little ones?

At What Age Should My Child Wear a Face Mask

According to WHO and UNICEF, children under five years old are not advised to wear a face mask or shield under the same conditions as adults. They would tend to touch their faces more than if they weren’t wearing any, making the PPE useless in preventing germs.

On the other hand, children who are 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults. More understanding of the concept and the rules would make it easier for them to follow the rules. According to WHO and UNICEF, children between 6-11 years old should wear face masks under specific conditions — existence in a widespread transmission area or interacting with people with a high risk of developing severe illness or the elderly.

A new problem, then, is that kids may not easily accept to wear PPE just because they’re told to. Health organizations made some guidelines to help children accept PPE.

Teaching Children About PPE

Teaching children about PPE
Teaching children about PPE

Wearing a face mask might seem scary for children. They can’t see whether the person wearing it is angry or happy, and it may cause confusion. According to WHO it’s essential to let the child know that everyone can smile at them even under the face mask. Adults can feel the smile behind the face mask, and so can children.

“We wear masks to keep our loved ones safe, and others wear masks to keep us safe.” The move behind wearing face masks and other PPE is to protect people and loved ones. Explain and help them understand the concept behind using PPE. This will encourage children to love using it. They will know that they are not wearing a mask mask because they are sick, but it’s to stay safe and keep everyone around safe.

Children need to understand that face masks, and other types of PPE can protect them. People wear face shields to protect their eyes. They wear gloves to protect their hands and keep germs away.

As children over five should wear face masks when they’re unable to keep a 1.5 meters distance, it’s preferred for children to choose their face masks themselves and try wearing it at home before going out. That would add a personal touch and might help them to get used to the idea of using a face mask. Usually, children’s face masks are made of multilayered, washable cotton. They come in bright colors, prints, and superhero characters. The ability of the child to choose their face mask would make them attached to it. Getting a child-friendly face mask will increase the chances of them wearing it. Parents should make sure the face mask fits the child’s face and is secured with ties or ear loops.

PPE for Children at School

It’s nearly impossible to force young children to keep a 1.5-meter distance and wear face masks at schools. It’s also hard for the teachers to wear masks in class and stand away from little ones during the school day. It’s better to introduce a cleaning and disinfection routine that is easy for children to understand and follow — like washing hands. Children usually stick to behavioral habits. Like washing hands, cleaning after playing, and keeping their hands to themselves. It’s much easier for them, compared to wearing PPE and keeping social distance.

Wash Your Hands Often
Wash Your Hands Often

Young children with special needs would need more effort to accept such new rules. Small groups of children will need to be supported by a significant number of caregivers throughout the outbreak. They might need more practice and patience to get used to the new rules. 

Several countries re-opened schools with new rules to adapt to the pandemic. For example, secondary school children in France were told to go to schools with face masks and no more than 15 children in each classroom at one time. The same rule applies to Israel, where it’s essential to wear facemasks in schools for kids over six years old. 

Most students in Germany and China went back to schools without mandatory face masks only in the corridors keeping in mind the social distance. In the Netherlands, no PPE is required in schools, but educational staff must pay attention to children’s social distance.

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