Beginning Friday, June 26, Washington State now requires everyone to wear a cloth face covering in public when they cannot maintain six feet of distance from others. Here are some answers to questions that parents and other caregivers might have about face coverings and children.
When does the face covering requirement apply to children?
The requirement applies to children ages five years and older, unless they are medically directed to do otherwise. The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends, but does not require, children who are two to four years old use face coverings in public settings under the close supervision of an adult. Children who are younger than two should never wear face coverings. With smaller airways, breathing through masks are difficult for little ones. For infants, there may be an increased risk of suffocation. Also, older infants and young toddlers are likely to pull the mask off, resulting in them touching their face more often. The risks outweigh the benefits for children younger than two years old.
Children older than five do not need to wear face coverings when they are at home or in the car if they are only with people from their own household. They also do not need to wear a face covering when playing outdoors when they can maintain six feet of social distance from others. When you are outdoors as a family, it is a good idea to keep face coverings in a pocket or bag to use in case you come across other people from whom you cannot stay six feet away.
What are some tips for encouraging younger children to wear face coverings?
ParentMap recently published an article with some great tips on encouraging children to wear face coverings. The advice includes:
- Children often learn through play; you can introduce the idea by placing a face covering or mask on your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal.
- Buy or make masks in patterns that match your child’s interests. If your child is into unicorns or superheroes, choose a pattern that they will be excited to wear.
- Practice wearing a face covering at home, even if it is just for a few minutes. This is especially important if your kids are headed to a place where a face covering is required, like on an airplane flight.
What should I look for in face coverings?
The face covering should fit securely over your child’s nose and mouth. If you are purchasing one, look for washable covering made from multiple layers of tightly woven fabric. Every child is different so you might need to try a few styles and sizes before finding one that works best.
If you would like to make your own, there many tutorials online that can be made without any sewing skills and with materials you probably already have at home. The CDC has several easy-to-follow templates and mask-making instructions on its website.
How should I care for my child’s face coverings?
It is safest to wash your face covering after each wear because it has the potential to be contaminated when you are out in public. The best practice is for children and caregivers to wash or sanitize their hands before putting on and after removing their face coverings. You should try to avoid touching the outside of the covering by folding it carefully and storing it in a private place, such as a personal plastic zip-top bag.
Finally, it is important to remember that wearing masks enhances but does not replace the other prevention measures that we have already been doing. We all still need to stay home when we are sick, keep six feet away from others, and wash our hands frequently.