A face mask is a simple thing, yet it’s one of the best tools we have to help protect one another from COVID-19.

That’s why public health experts say almost everyone should wear a mask until they’re fully vaccinated — including children as young as 2 years old. Many areas have mask mandates in addition to recommendations. And children may need to wear a mask at least part of the time while they’re at school.

Tips for masking up

Wearing a face mask can be challenging for children. You can help them adjust with these suggestions:

• Make it fun. Put a face mask on a stuffed animal. Give your child’s mask a cool decoration. Point out that many superheroes wear masks.

• Practice together. Help your child get used to wearing the mask before you go out.

• Show your child pictures of other kids wearing masks. This will help your child avoid feeling different or singled out.

• Talk about the importance of masks. Using age-appropriate words, talk with your child about face masks and why your family wears them: to avoid spreading germs. Talk with them about how germs can spread when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a mask keeps the virus from reaching others and it can stop germs from reaching you! Additionally, contaminated hands are a way for the virus to spread and masks stop people from touching their mouths and faces, adding another level of protection.

Right mask, right fit

You can buy a face covering for your child. Or if you sew, you can find DIY mask patterns online. A pleated cloth mask with elastic ear loops usually works best for kids.

Just make sure the mask you buy or make will fit your child’s smaller face and can be securely worn over your child’s nose and mouth. Adult face masks are too large for kids.

Also, children often need to be reminded to:

• Wash their hands before and after wearing the mask.

• Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.

• Remove the mask by taking it off from behind rather than from the front.

When to talk to your child’s doctor

Some children have a developmental or intellectual disability or a health condition that may make it harder to wear a mask. Ask your child’s doctor for advice.

Call your CMH clinic or visit to request an appointment or learn more information.

Note: Here’s to Your Health is sponsored by Columbia Memorial Hospital. Dr. Latham is the in-house pediatrician at CMH-OHSU Health Pediatric Clinic - Seaside.


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