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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Our Kids: Masked Superheroes!

The other day as I entered my exam room to see a young child, I heard him asking his mother:

“Why do I have to wear this mask, mom? I don’t want to!”

Once again, I reflected on how COVID-19 has brought parents and kids so many challenges, and how hard they can be to navigate. From supervising their schooling at home, to explaining why they can’t have playdates, to giving constant handwashing – reminders can be tiresome.

And then we add a new struggle: getting kids to wear a mask. In California, there’s a statewide health order that children age 2 and older should wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when they go out and are around others. (Kids under 2 shouldn’t wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.)

When it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the facts are very clear:

  • Masks reduce spread of the virus by blocking droplets in the air from breathing, coughing, or sneezing. People who don’t have symptoms can still be spreading the virus to others by not wearing a mask.
  • Masks work well to protect those who wear them too, according to the latest evidence.

For all ages, the best ways to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19 are to stay at home when you can, wash hands often, keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet, and wear a mask when you’re out.

Fortunately, COVID-19 symptoms are generally milder in children – and most kids who get the virus tend to do very well. But if they’re infected, they can spread the virus to people in their family and in the community, whether they feel sick or not. And those people may get a more severe, or even deadly case. That’s why it’s so important for kids to wear a mask when they’re out of the house or near others.

We know it can be tough to get kids to wear their masks. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Let them choose a mask they like.
  • Make your own masks together. Masks made from multiple layers of pleated fabric work really well to control virus spread.
  • Have them decorate their masks.
  • Practice wearing the mask at home, in front of a mirror and while playing dress up.
  • If your child has a hard time with one mask, try a different style or fabric until they find one that’s more comfortable.
  • Praise them every time they wear their mask without a fuss.
  • Put a mask on their favorite stuffed animal.
  • Point out other kids who are wearing masks.
  • Draw masks on characters in coloring books.

Most importantly – be a role model by wearing your own mask!

Choosing the right mask is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a terrific resource called Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 that can help you. For kids – an important detail is to be sure the mask fits well.

The mom in my exam room went on to explain to her son about germs we can’t see but can spread, even if we don’t feel sick. So that’s why wearing a mask is such an important way to protect those around us. She wisely added:

“Superheroes wear masks to protect the people they care about – so put on your mask and you can be a superhero too!”

 

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.