When the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Americans start using homemade cloth face masks to protect against the coronavirus parents had a lot of questions that were not addressed in the initial White House briefing announcing the change.
Here are the answers to some of the common questions about the CDC's face mask recommendations:
1. Do babies need masks?
No, babies under 2 years old should not wear masks, according to the CDC, as they can increase the risk of suffocation. The CDC's website states: "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance."
That is why experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital are asking the new cottage industry of mask makers to avoid marketing masks to parents of babies, writing: "These products (infant masks, masks attached to pacifiers, etc.) may pose more harm than benefit in terms of safety for children under the age of 2 years old."
2. Does my child need to wear a mask to go outside?
It depends. If you've got an older child and you're hanging out in your own backyard a mask isn't necessary, but if you're taking your child on the bus or into a grocery store they are recommended.
The CDC wants people to wear masks when they are in a community setting, not to avoid catching COVID-19 but to avoid getting other people sick. "A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others," the CDC's guidance notes.
Or, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it this week, "it protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them."
Because children do not seem to get as sick as adults when they have COVID-19 they can unknowingly be carriers. The best way to protect our kids and our communities is to keep our children home, but if you absolutely must take your child out into your community a mask can protect the vulnerable.
3. Does my child have to wear a mask if we go out?
In some parts of the United States, local governments are requiring citizens to wear masks when they leave their homes, but the CDC's statement on face masks is only a recommendation.
Some kids, especially preschool-age children, will not keep a mask on their face. If that's the case for your child, wearing one will increase the likelihood that they will touch their face. As experts recommend keeping hands away from faces, anything that's going to make your kid touch their face even more isn't a good idea.