Based on this and other factors, such as the psychosocial needs of children, WHO and UNICEF have advised that children 5 years of age and younger should not be required to wear masks, based on “the safety and general interest of the child and the ability to properly use a mask with minimal assistance.”
“In general, children 5 and under should not be required to wear masks. This advice is based on the safety and general interest of the child and the ability to properly use a mask with minimal assistance. There may be local requirements for children age 5 and under to wear masks, or specific needs in some settings, such as being physically around someone who is sick. In these circumstances, if the child wears a mask, a parent or other guardian must be in direct line of sight to supervise the safe use of the mask ”, they explain.
In children 6 to 11 years of age, its recommendation only occurs if there is generalized transmission in the area where the child resides; if access to and replacement of masks cannot be guaranteed in certain settings (such as schools and daycare services); if there is no adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and use the masks safely; taking into account the potential impacts of use on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents / caregivers and / or clinicians; or in specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing serious illnesses, such as the elderly and people with other underlying health conditions.
WHO and UNICEF advise that children 12 years and older wear a mask in the same conditions as adults, in particular “when they cannot guarantee a minimum distance of 1 meter from the others and there is a generalized transmission in the area.”
These organizations recognize that “some children may not be able to wear a mask due to disabilities or specific situations, such as classes where the teacher needs to see their mouths. “In these cases, face shields can be considered an alternative to masks, but they do not provide the equivalent protection to prevent the virus from being transmitted to others,” they detail.
“If you decide to use a face shield, it should cover the entire face, wrap around the sides of the face and extend to below the chin. Care must be taken while using one to avoid injuries that could break it and damage the eyes or face ”, they insist.
Regarding the use of masks for children of any age with developmental disorders, disabilities or other specific health problems, they indicate that “it should not be mandatory and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the parents, the guardian, the educator and / or the child’s medical provider ”. “In any case, the use of masks should not be required of children with severe cognitive or respiratory deficiencies who have difficulty tolerating a mask,” they say.
Children with underlying health problems, such as cystic fibrosis or cancer, “they should wear a medical mask in consultation with their medical providers,” they explain. For children who are generally in good health, “they can wear a non-medical or cloth mask.” “This provides source control, which means that it prevents the virus from spreading to others if they are infected and are not aware that they are infected,” they add.
In addition, they remember that any child who has symptoms that suggest the presence of covid-19 should wear a medical mask, “as long as they can tolerate it.” “The child should be isolated and medical advice should be sought as soon as he begins to feel ill, even if the symptoms are mild. Family members / caregivers who come within 1 meter of the sick child at home should also wear a mask ”, they add.
In the same way, they point out that children should not wear a mask when doing sports or physical activities, such as running, jumping or playing on the playground, so as not to compromise their breathing. “When organizing these activities for children, it is important to encourage all other fundamental public health measures: maintaining a minimum distance of 1 meter from others, limiting the number of children playing together, providing access to hygiene facilities for hands and encourage their use ”, they insist.
In any case, the WHO points out that people “always consult and abide by local authorities about the recommended practices in their area” regarding the use of masks in children.