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Ask the doctor: Should children also wear masks?

Health By Dr Ombeva Malande
The biggest concern has been the risk of suffocation and the discomfort that may be associated with mask use (Photo: Shutterstock)

Dear Dr Ombeva,

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Thank you for your recent informative articles on Covid-19. My question is are children also supposed to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Concerned Mom

Response:

The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) virus spreads from person-to-person.

It is for this reason that we are advised to wash hands regularly, to keep recommended distance with each other in order to prevent spread (physic/social distancing), to stay away from Covid-19 infected relatives, and to clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces each day.

In general, these three measures are key in preventing spread of the virus. One of the contentious recommendations, especially among children, is wearing of masks.

Masks are contentious because of the difficulty and challenges that putting them on very young children or infants carries a risk.

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The biggest concern has been the risk of suffocation and the discomfort that may be associated with mask use.

The Centres for Disease Control and The American Academy of Paediatrics now recommends that babies, especially infants, should not wear masks. A safe cut-off is the age two years and below.

It is preferred that children stay at home and do not go anywhere to public places where adults go.

But if a situation arises when a baby must leave home, like going to hospital, or for scheduled immunisation or clinic review appointments, then parents are advised not to use masks for those below two years of age.

The older ones can be educated on the value of wearing a mask, the likely discomfort that may arise and the need to keep the mask on for the entire period they are away from home.

Talking the child through this and advising the child appropriately is important to ensure buy-in and compliance of the child to the recommendations.

Dr Ombeva Malande is a specialist paediatrician. Reach him on [email protected]

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