WHO Releases Face Mask Guidance for Kids Returning to School


With school back in session, the World Health Organization has released guidance on mask-wearing for kids and teens.

There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding COVID-19 and kids -- are they prone to the novel virus the way adults are?

A study from South Korea suggested that children younger than 10 can transmit the disease to others less than adults, but those in the 10-19 age category still pose a serious risk.

Schools that opted for in-person classes have also seen a surge in coronavirus cases among students and teachers with the Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association citing 100,000 tested positive at the end of July.

There’s also an inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID called multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MISC. Despite being rare, children with MISC either have COVID-19 or have antibodies for the disease.

Therefore, the WHO revealed three recommendations for mask wearing depending on age groups.

The document is split into several categories making it easy to navigate for parents who wants answers.

Children aged five and under should not be required to wear masks.

“This advice is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance,” the document reads.

Children ranging from six to 11 should use a mask depending on a few factors including local transmission rates, whether the child knows how to safely and appropriately use a mask, access to masks, and their exposure. Mask-wearing should be supervised by an adult.

Children 12 and older should wear masks under the same conditions as adults. There’s an emphasis on mask-wearing when they cannot distance themselves more than 6 feet from others.

Children with developmental disabilities and other health conditions should not be required to use masks. It should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The WHO suggests children in good health wear a non-medical or fabric mask. In rare cases, face shields may be worn instead of masks, but the agency warns that “they do not provide the equivalent protection in keeping the virus from being transmitted to others.”

Teachers and caregivers should also wear masks.

When playing sports or doing physical activities, children should refrain from wearing a mask so that it “doesn’t compromise their breathing.”

As for children engaging in remote and distance learning, they should wear a medical mask at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Family members should also wear a mask. Anyone with symptoms or who tested positive should also isolate.

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