Masks Can Be Dangerous For Kids Under 2, Face Shields a Safer Option Says Experts
"They may not have the motor skills or coordination to remove a secured mask if (they are) having breathing difficulty or are overheated."
As part of nation-wide Circuit Breaker guidelines, all Singapore residents are required to put on a mask when leaving their homes. The only exceptions are young kids under 2 and when engaged in strenuous activities.
Why Masks Can Be Unsafe For Kids Under 2
While mask-wearing guidelines for kids differ around the world, masks are “generally not recommended in children below the age of 3”, at least according to Dr Mohana Rajakulendran, a paediatrician at Parkway East Hospital.
Not only can masks “increase the resistance to breathing, it can also “cause hypoventilation”.
This is because young children have a narrower and “less rigid” airway as compared to adults, making them more prone to obstruction.
And unlike their older counterparts, children younger than 2 are unable to communicate in situations when they have trouble breathing, according to Dr Jennifer Shu, a certified paediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“They may not have the motor skills or coordination to remove a secured mask if (they are) having breathing difficulty or are overheated,” she said in an email to USA Today.
And this makes it even more dangerous for little ones where parents are unable to catch the signs.
In the case for older kids, they tend to struggle, frequently adjusting their mask or touching their faces due to the discomfort from mask-wearing.
However, doing so renders the mask ineffective and could cause them to be potentially exposed to coronavirus.
To Consider Face Shields Instead
For one, face shields are safe for newborn babies to put on—as seen on these adorable babies—and helps guard against the spread of coronavirus.
That means it is also safe for children who will soon have to put on either a mask or face shield when Singapore schools reopen on 2 June 2020.
According to Education Minister Mr Ong Ye Kung, students can choose to wear a face shield if the usual face mask is uncomfortable for them—a pressing concern many parents have.
This flexibility in enforcement also applies to groups such as children with special needs who could experience difficulty in wearing a mask.
Masks Safety for Kids: Better for Those With Respiratory Ailments
In addition, wearing of face shields could be a good alternative for children with respiratory ailments like asthma or cystic fibrosis, according to Dr Shu as said to USA Today.
In Singapore, all preschool and primary school students will receive face shields in Term 3 from their schools, said Mr Ong.
The tentative date that all schools can expect to receive these items is by June 8, said Temasek Foundation.
How to Help Children Above 2 Ease into Mask-wearing
For kids above two, parents can help ease the process by helping them get used to their masks, if it is preferred over a face shield. Try these tips:
- Allow your child time to practice wearing his/her masks at home. Teach the ways of putting masks on and taking them off
- Introduce a sense of play: your child can pretend to be doctor or nurse while tending to a “patient” such as a stuffed toy—all while wearing a mask
- Encourage your child to ask questions about mask-wearing; allow them to share what they know and how they feel. Respond calmly to repetitive questions (if any) and let the conversation flow at their pace
- Give children the choice to choose the designs (favourite cartoon character) or colour – at least if they have to put on a mask, they can feel as though they hold a choice
- Show pictures of other children wearing masks out in public to help them feel more comfortable about it
Above all else, it is most important to ensure that children engage in regular hand washing and practising social distancing in efforts to avoid risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Click here for more information on mask-wearing guidelines in Singapore.
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