Experts weigh in on dangers of face masks for young children

Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 10:24 PM CDT
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The Centers for Disease Control recently changed its recommendation for masks and now says you should wear a face mask out in public to protect yourself from the coronavirus.

Experts say not all kids should wear one. The CDC says cloth face masks are good protection to have for yourself and your kids.

But if your child is under the age of two, the protective gear could put them in danger.

"One idea behind having that face mask is it does keep you from touching your face," said Amanda Hedgpeth, Vice President of Hospital Operations with CoxHealth.

The CDC recommends masks for all children over the age of two for trips out of the house.

"The problem with kids and babies is they're naturally always touching their face, so I think it really does depend on each child and each baby," Hedgpeth said.

For infants and children who may have communication issues, Dr. Laura Waters, a pediatrician with Mercy, said face masks can be dangerous.

"If they were struggling to breath under that mask or having difficulties, they wouldn't necessarily be able to communicate that. Then they also struggle to remove that mask if they're not able to communicate," she said.

Dr. Waters said many of the things young children do, like touching their face, reduce the protectiveness of the masks.

"At that age they're drooling, they're also having runny nose and sneezing, and all of that going on with allergy season. So obviously, any time that the masks become wet they're not that effective," she said. "There are lots of reasons in general why we would recommend for children, or younger children not to be wearing masks."

Dr. Waters said the best way to avoid needing protection is to stay home. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department stands by that recommendation as well.

"Let's focus instead on physical distancing and keeping small children out of situations out of situations where they might be affected by COVID-19," said Clay Goddard, Greene County Health Department's Director of Health.

Dr. Waters said if parents find themselves needing to take their child in public, it is important to discuss how to properly wear a mask to keep them safe.

"You want to talk with their kids about the way to wear masks, that they're covering their nose and their mouth and that they're not touching it," she said.

​The CDC does have instructions on their website with how to make a cloth mask for you and your child. On those instructions, they also have a warning not to place the masks on children under the age of two.