Kids under 5 shouldn’t have to wear face masks, say new WHO guidelines

For any mom who has had to deal with a toddler or preschooler who doesn’t like wearing a mask, you can relax. While masks can be helpful for some, the World Health Organization (WHO) says they aren’t for every child.

The global health authority, together with UNICEF, have just published revised guidelines on the use of masks by kids. It’s based on the latest evidence on COVID-19 infection and transmission in kids around the world.

In the document, they say kids under 5 should not have to wear masks unless there’s an adult nearby who can make sure they’re wearing it properly the whole time.

“There may be local requirements for children aged 5 years and under to wear masks, or specific needs in some settings, such as being physically close to someone who is ill. In these circumstances, if the child wears a mask, a parent or other guardian should be within direct line of sight to supervise the safe use of the mask.”

This advice, they say, is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.

Guidelines for ages 6-11 years

For school-going kids ages 6-11 years, the wearing of a mask should depend on:

  • How widespread the transmission of the virus is in a particular region or community.
  • Whether the child is in contact with someone who is at high-risk of getting the infection, like a granny or grandpa; and
  • Whether there is an adult supervising how they put on and take off their mask.

ALSO SEE: 5 ways to get your child to wear their mask for longer

Guidelines for kids age 12 and over

The guidelines advise kids age 12 and older to wear a mask under the same conditions as an adult, especially if they can’t guarantee at least a 1m distance from their buddies!

 Other guidelines issued on the use of masks by kids include:

  • If your child has an underlying health condition such as cystic fibrosis or cancer, he should wear a medical mask.
  • If your child can’t wear a mask because of a disability, or because of a specific situation, like a speech class where the teacher needs to see their mouth, he should wear a face shield as an alternative to a cloth mask. But it must cover the entire face and wrap around the sides of the face and extend beyond the chin.
  • Kids don’t need to wear a mask when playing sport or taking part in a physical activity such as running, jumping or playing on the playground so that it doesn’t compromise their breathing. However, they note that it’s important for adults to encourage kids to keep a 1m distance from others, that they limit the number of kids playing together, and make sure they wash their hands regularly.

More information, including videos on how to put on, take off and care for a mask, can be found here.

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