Why aren’t face masks safe for babies and toddlers?

Here’s what experts recommend you do if you need to go outside with your baby or toddler during the coronavirus outbreak.

 Because children under 2 years old can’t wear masks, they’re protected from infection when people around them do.

Face masks have become mandatory in public as South Africa continues to battle the coronavirus. It’s no wonder, then, that a whole new industry of face masks has sprung up as a result.

Face masks are now available online in a range of patterns and materials, allowing you to not only protect yourself against the virus but also accessorise your clothing and show off your sense of style.

Although COVID-19 appears to be less dangerous to children than it is to adults, children are not immune to the disease and may develop more serious problems in rare situations. Children can also become carriers of the virus, spreading it to others despite having no symptoms.

As a result, we should provide the same level of safety to children. Does this, however, include wearing a face mask?

Should babies under the age of two wear face masks?

Face masks are not recommended for children under the age of two, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP). The reason for this is that they increase the risk of suffocating. Because babies’ airways and lung capacities are smaller than adults’, they may struggle to breathe properly when wearing a mask. They also won’t be able to take off the mask if they become distressed.

Another issue is that carbon dioxide can become trapped between the mask and the baby’s face, obstructing their breathing. If your baby’s face is hidden, you won’t be able to see if he or she is regurgitating milk or choking. This puts the baby in grave danger.

So, how can you keep infants safe?

All of the same protective rules that apply to adults also apply to children.

  • Don’t take your baby out unless it’s really necessary, and stay away from crowded locations.
  • When you’re out and about, keep social distances as wide as possible.
  • When you’re in a line, keep your baby’s stroller in mind and position yourself so that there’s at least one to two meters between you and the next person.
  • It’s often easier to keep other people away from your baby by wearing him in a carrier rather than in a stroller.
  • Use a light blanket to cover the baby’s stroller or car seat. You should, however, be able to watch your child at all times. If your infant is in a covered stroller and you are in a public area, it is quite easy for someone to abduct your child without you seeing.
  • If your baby is in a carrier, cover him or her with a muslin blanket so that other people can’t cough or sneeze on him or her, but you can still see his or her face.
  • Before touching the baby, wash or sanitise your hands.
  • Although there isn’t enough research to back this up, it’s thought that breastfeeding protects babies from COVID-19, therefore breastfeed for as long as possible.

Keeping toddlers and young children safe

This is no easy undertaking, as little toddlers do not yet comprehend concepts such as social separation and the importance of avoiding touching one’s face. You must strike a balance between providing maximum protection while minimising anxiety and dread. The following suggestions may be useful:

  • Avoid taking youngsters out needlessly, and stay away from crowded locations.
  • Use visuals and songs to communicate the importance of safety to your child on a level that he or she can comprehend. Your youngster should be aware that germs can live on your hands and that you should keep your hands away from your face. Teach him to cough and sneeze into his elbow rather than his hands, and to wash or sanitize his hands frequently.
  • Make your child’s mask a fun thing by allowing him to choose or paint it.
  • If you know your child will only tolerate the mask for a limited period of time, save it for the “most dangerous” part of your outing.
  • If your child is still in a stroller, this can help to keep him contained rather than letting him run about the store and potentially contaminate products. Bring a favourite toy with you to keep him entertained. Make sure it’s something you’ll be able to sanitise later.

Stay positive

Because protecting tiny children is so challenging, you should consider keeping them away from family members who are at high risk of developing COVID-19 issues. Keep in mind that this, too, will pass. One of these days, we shall be able to move amongst one other without fear or distance, hug loved ones, and enjoy one of life’s most beautiful gifts – time spent with each other