Mask wearing is now a way of life, especially for children who are back at school. Which mask to wear and getting kids to wear them, though, can be a daunting task for parents. The experts weighed in on this topic to better inform parents, children (and themselves).
The bottom line is Americans are urged to wear higher-quality masks. The CDC updated its policies confirming this, and while one brand is not necessarily endorsed over another, N95s and similar high filtration respirators offer the best protection against COVID-19.
According to Richard C. Prokesch, MD, an infectious disease doctor at Infectious Diseases Associates, PC of Riverdale, Ga., “I have been a strong proponent of masking from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest COVID-19 variant, omicron, is the most contagious of the variants to date and thus makes appropriate mask wearing even more important to decrease COVID-19 being transmitted airborne. The CDC recently changed the recommendations for masking, a move that I feel should have come sooner in the omicron phase of the pandemic.”
Prokesch went on to state, “Cloth masks are the least protective masks especially if they are loosely woven and loosely fitting. The best protection is from a well-fitted N95 mask, but these are not widely available to the general public and to many uncomfortable to wear. So, even if available likely would not be worn as diligently as necessary. KN95 masks offer the next best level of protection and are more available, then you have the disposable surgical masks, which are more protective than cloth masks.”
Dr. Prokesch added, “The CDC recommends that a mask of the highest level of protection available should be worn in crowded indoor settings, regardless of the vaccine status. Persons with immunosuppression should avoid the crowded settings, but if they cannot a N95 or KN95 mask should be worn if possible. Otherwise, I would suggest double masking with a surgical mask with a tight fitting double layered cloth mask over it.”
He said, “It is recommended that children older than 2 (years) wear a mask in crowded indoor settings including schools and school buses again regardless of their vaccine status. I want to stress again that vaccination is still the most important prevention versus serious COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death. With the omicron variant the COVID-19 booster adds a significant level of protection compared to the non-boosted.”
How To Get Kids to Wear a Mask
Building a new habit like mask-wearing can be a challenge. Beth M. Seidel, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist at the Behavioral Institute of Atlanta, shares helpful tips to inspire your child below:
1. Use child-friendly language. Kids respond best to very simple, positive and concrete explanations.
• Preschool: consider using a Sesame Street version of the explanation.
• Older kids: explain in more detail what the virus is and our responsibility to protect ourselves and others.
2. Engage your children in the process: let them pick out the mask(s) that seems appealing to them.
3. Model mask-wearing and appropriate mask wearing (over the nose and mouth): Make sure you are wearing your mask as often as you expect your kids to.
4. Practice through play: role play with your kids. For example, every time you get out of the car the mask comes on. Or when going inside a place how to talk with the mask on.
5. One step at a time: work your way up to help them feel more and more comfortable with wearing the mask. Start with wearing it in the house for a short time and talking with the mask on. Then have them wear the mask at a store (short visit) and then finally, at a friend’s house (for a longer period of time). Then they will feel more comfortable wearing it for longer periods of time-like at school.
The CDC guidelines recommend wearing the more protective N95 masks to combat COVID-19’s omicron variant. President Biden announced that the federal government will send 400 million N95 masks to pharmacies and community health centers in the next few weeks at a variety of locations. Previously reserved for healthcare workers, these “more protective” masks filter out at least 95 percent of the air particles. They are followed by KN95s and KF94s. The K is for China or Korea; the N is for United States.
Selecting a trusted company is key. Understanding the approvals is also key. For the best protection, you’ll want to stick to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved N95s and choose trustworthy retailers that work directly with approved mask manufacturers or directly from mask manufacturers’ own websites. You can also look for exclusive distributors for trusted manufacturers, like Bona Fide Masks, which distribute approved versions.
Family owned and operated, Bona Fide Masks Corp. is part of the Ball Chain Manufacturing Co., Inc. family of companies, dating as far back as 1938. It is an authorized distributor of masks, transparent about its supply chain and purchases masks directly from the manufacturer. Bona fide means “in good faith.”
In a conversation with Bill Taubner, president of both Ball Chain and Bona Fide Masks, he said, “We started a supply chain search and FDA had an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) list authorizing certain KN95s for use in healthcare settings by healthcare professionals when N95s was in short supply. Powecom and Harley were on the list. The N95 is the gold standard for respiratory protection in the United States. Like all of our products, they are sold online at low prices. It is a type of personal protective equipment used to protect the wearer from 95 percent of airborne particles measuring 0.3 µm (microns) or greater. This standard is regulated by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA). Our KN95 masks are made from a filter material which includes polypropylene and electrostatic melt-blown fabric. The mask catches and filters the virus, helping to protect us from breathing it in.”
Regarding kids’ masks, Taubner adds, “We have a few different kids’ masks but the best one is the Powecom KN95-SM. It’s just 15 percent smaller than Powecom’s adult KN95. Considered a respirator type of mask, it fits around the nose and mouth to provide a seal. There’s a new 2019 standard, which implements an update and is easy to breathe through.”
Certain mask studies indicate that the virus can last on the surface of masks for 3 days, so Taubner recommends reusing a KN95 after 4 days in between uses.” The Harley children’s mask is another Bona Fide Masks selection that moms like for younger children, about ages 3-7, where comfort and fit are also key.
Please note: Check the www.cdc.gov for updated information on masks and children, and you can learn more about Bona Fide Masks Corp. here: www.bonafidemasks.com.
- Robyn Spizman Gerson
- N95 masks
- Richard C. Prokesch
- Infectious Diseases Associates
- Center for Disease Control
- Omicron variant
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
- Bona Fide Masks Corp.
- Ball Chain Manufacturing Co.
- Bill Taubner