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To mask or not to mask: A guide to helping children during COVID-19

The World Health Organisation has released a public statement on the guidelines regarding the wearing of masks for children in relation to the age groups as well as co-morbidities of children in the context of COVID-19.
To mask or not to mask: A guide to helping children during COVID-19

There has been a lot of controversy and confusion for parents and caregivers when it comes to their children, mask-wearing, and how to keep them protected during COVID-19.

COVID-19 AND CHILDREN

Since most children who do contract COVID-19 only get mild symptoms, there have been cases of inflammatory syndromes that are associated with the coronavirus infection.

A multidisciplinary team comprising of The World Health Organisation (WHO), Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Guidance Development Group (GDG) and experts in various fields from UNICEF and the International Paediatric Association (IPA) came together to review evidence relating to children and wearing of non- medical (fabric) face masks in the context of the pandemic.

MASK-WEARING GUIDELINES

It was noted that the WHO said that wearing of masks for children between the ages of five and under should not be required and was based on the overall interests of the child including the “psychosocial needs” and the point of view of that they are not able to use masks independently without the use of much and constant assistance.

 

The WHO has said that children in age groups between ages six and 11 should depend on a handful of factors such as:

  • Local infection rates
  • Access to replaceable and clean masks if need be, according to COVID-19 regulations and guidelines
  • Social and cultural environment such as beliefs, customs, behaviour or social norms influencing the community
  • Social interactions of the population and community, especially with and among children
  • Children’s abilities to use masks safely and correctly and adequate supervision by an adult
  • The impact of mask-wearing on learning and psychosocial development
  • Considerations of exposure for specific settings such as households with elderly relatives and those with a high risk of contracting serious COVID-19 symptoms

Finally, children and adolescents 12 years or older should wear a mask according to the same conditions and guidelines as adults such as when going outside when in public, inside shops, public transport and other crowded venues.

One thing to be noted is that masks are not the silver bullet and people tend to be less vigilant and careful when they wear a mask, the CDC said in June 2020.

 

Other critical safety measures and precautions still need to be adhered to such as hand washing and sanitising, as well as social distancing.

The South African

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