The novel coronavirus has shifted the lifestyle for all of us with one universal requirement – wearing a mask. As such, both adults and children are required to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many parents are concerned about the new way of life for their children and are prone to believe advice and interpretations from social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This article takes a spin at the most common myths believed by a parent or caregiver and debunks them with credible evidence.
Children without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to wear a mask.
- False. All children over the age of 2 are recommended to wear a mask before and after they have COVID-19 symptoms. 90% of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic to COVID-19, thus making it difficult to trace the spread of the virus. Therefore, it is important for children to wear masks to make sure they do not catch COVID-19 or accidentally pass it on to someone else.
Masks can make it harder for my child to breathe.
- False. A good face mask is made of materials that allow for easy breathing. Although the staple blue homemade masks or disposable masks are highly encouraged for children over the age of 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any masks that have at least two layers of fabric will do, too, as long as they are breathable and soft. The key is to find masks that are comfortable so that kids are willing to wear them.
Masks will interfere with my child’s lung development.
- False. According to Kimberly Dickinson, a pediatric pulmonary fellow at Johns Hopkins University, pediatricians have debunked this theory time and time again by confirming that masks are not interfering with a child’s lung development in a negative manner. The materials used to make masks are always lightweight enough to ensure ease of breathing and comfort, especially for children. The only time lung development would be an issue is if a child was tested positive for COVID-19, which is unlikely if masks are worn properly.
Masks can trap carbon dioxide and cause hypercapnia for my child.
- False. Masks cannot trap carbon dioxide nor cause hypercapnia. Carbon dioxide molecules are so small that it is impossible for them to be trapped in any mask material. Thus, when a child breathes out carbon dioxide, the molecules escape quickly out of the mask and into the air. Masks usually have adequate ventilation in order to prevent any sort of air or molecule or particle buildup.
Masks can cause diseases like bacterial pneumonia for my child.
- False. Bacterial pneumonia is formed when children inhale harmful toxins, smoke or chemicals through the air. Although there can be bacteria stored in masks, there is no evidence or study that suggests masks can cause bacterial pneumonia. According to Dr. Thomas Nash, an infectious disease specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, masks only collect what the child is breathing out – which in this case is carbon dioxide. Thus, there is no way for bacteria to enter and be stuck on the mask.
Children are encouraged to wear disposable masks or washed masks in order to prevent contamination or transmission of COVID-19 and other air-borne infectious diseases.
Masks are too difficult to wear; my child will not wear them.
- False. Wearing a mask is a learned behavior that can be acquired by a model. A parent or caregiver can request their child to wear masks continuously and highlight the risk of not wearing one.
- For younger children, modeling and practicing are the key ways to ensure mask safety. Children follow their parents’ behavior and wearing a mask yourself would be a great start.
Masks will cause psychological damage to my child.
- False. If parents are able to give children positive reinforcements for mask wearing and explain the ease and necessity of doing so, then the children should have no problem. Children will see their friends, teachers and family wearing masks and that type of modeling behavior will encourage a child to wear a mask, even if it is because the child does not want to feel left out.
Face masks will delay speech and language skills.
- False. Masks do not affect the acquisition of any language skills because language development is mainly formed in the right hemisphere of the brain. When children wear masks, they do not harm their brain development in any way because they can still talk and understand one another. Speech development occurs from 18 months to 24 months for most children and wearing a mask is prohibited at that age.
Masks are not useful for my child because they cannot stop bacteria from entering when my child is outside the house.
- False. Children can be taught to wash their hands before putting on and taking off their masks, which is what is recommended by the CDC. At the beginning, there may be some slip ups where the child tugs at the mask or scratches their face behind the mask; but with the help of positive reinforcement and modeling, a child can soon learn proper hand-washing technique to lower the risk of bacteria or viral transmission.
What if my child has…
- Asthma: If the child has controlled asthma, masks are not a problem. But if the child has severe asthma, then it is important for the child to consult their physician before wearing a mask. Surgical masks are recommended because COVID-19 puts children with asthma at high risk.
- Diabetes: According to the American Diabetes Association, wearing a mask is safe for children with diabetes. It does not interfere or elevate with their glucose levels, or bring on any additional stressors to the body. It is actually safer for children with diabetes to wear masks because they are at high risk of catching COVID-19, developing permanently high blood sugar level and other infectious diseases related to the lungs and body.
- Special needs: It is best to consult your local physician or doctor when it comes to special needs and the options for keeping your child safe during the pandemic. Different mental health requires different needs which should be catered to your child specifically.
How do I convince my child to wear face masks?
- Modeling – Show their favorite animal or cartoon character wearing a mask to help exhibit the same behavior of wearing a mask.
- Award system – Reward your child every time with their favorite candy or an extra hour to watch TV, when they wear their mask and keep the fidgeting, tugging and pulling to a minimum.
- Risks and Safety – If your child is older, sit down and explain the high risks of COVID-19 transmission for them and their loved ones. It is important for them to know that wearing a mask can save many lives.
- Get Creative! – Make and design your child’s mask by either purchasing cloth masks or making homemade ones. This will give your child creative freedom and more eagerness to wear their custom masks!
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Masks are safe for both children over the age of 2 and adults. Children learn their behaviors from their parents or caregivers and wearing a mask is just one of the habits that we must all be accustomed to as a new lifestyle change. It is easy to believe and buy into myths and scare tactics which have no scientific basis. Hopefully with this article, you can now confidently rebut the common misconceptions to your loved ones and explain to them why they are just myths.
- 5 face mask facts for kids. Carithers Pediatric Group. (2020, November 19). Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://carithersgroup.com/facts-face-masks-for-kids/.
- American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Safe at School During COVID-19: Recommendations on Returning to School for Children with Diabetes. American Diabetes Association – Connected for Life. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.diabetes.org/resources/know-your-rights/safe-at-school-state-laws
- Brown, J. (2021, August 14). FAQ: Debunking myths about kids wearing masks. Guard. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.registerguard.com/story/news/2021/08/14/faq-safe-child-wear-mask-myths-debunked-school-breathing-development/5547261001/.
- Diabetes Congress – Medicalevents.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://medicalevents.com/sites/default/files/2020-10/Diabetes%20Congress_2021_Scientific_Program.pdf.
- Fagan, D., MD. (2021, April 28). Debunking 6 Myths About Face Masks And Kids. The Well by Northwell. https://thewell.northwell.edu/well-informed/parenting-kids-face-masks
- If your child has asthma, is wearing a mask safe? (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/if-your-child-has-asthma-is-wearing-a-mask-safe.
- LaForme, K. (2020, September 16). Myths about masks and other coronavirus facial coverings. Myths about Masks and Other Coronavirus Facial Coverings – Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/Myths-about-Masks-and-Other-Coronavirus-Facial-Cov.
- Nandi, D. P. (2021, August 25). Fact VS. fiction: Mask myths for children in the classroom making the rounds. WXYZ. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.wxyz.com/news/coronavirus/fact-vs-fiction-mask-myths-for-children-in-the-classroom-making-the-rounds.
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. COVID-19 and Your Health. (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
- Pentucket Medical. (2020, August 26). Mask Mythbusters: Five common misconceptions about kids & cloth face coverings. Pentucket Medical. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://pmaonline.com/posts/news/mask-mythbusters-five-common-misconceptions-about-kids-cloth-face-coverings/.
- Thomson Reuters. (2020, September 23). Fact check: People have not been developing antibiotic-resistant pneumonia from wearing face masks. Reuters. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-pneumonia-idUSKCN26E2NA.
- Thomson Reuters. (2021, August 2). Fact check-masks do not expose children to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. Reuters. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-masks-children/fact-check-masks-do-not-expose-children-to-dangerous-levels-of-carbon-dioxide-idUSL1N2P929B.