Mask-wearing is practically as normal as wearing shoes now (at least when you go outside), but now that the CDC has recommended double masking, it leaves parents to wonder — should kids double mask, too?
Since the spread of COVID-19 and its variants hasn't stopped, the CDC recommends wearing one cloth mask with one disposable mask underneath. The second mask should help push the inner mask against your face, more effectively preventing respiratory droplets from leaking out or getting inside. In fact, a recent study found that exposure to potentially infections aerosols decreased by about 95% when wearing a double mask because the two layers improved the fit and filtration. The same study does note, though, that the findings might not apply to children because of their smaller size, which means the masks may not fit correctly. What's a parent to do? POPSUGAR spoke with several doctors to find out.
Should kids double mask?
The experts we spoke to disagreed on this. Sharon Nachman, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital in New York and one of the country's foremost experts on measles, influenza, and other infectious diseases, said kids should not double mask right now. "It is more important to make sure that their masks fit well, and if the mask gets wet, to swap it out for a clean and dry one," Dr. Nachman told POPSUGAR.
Other experts believe that children should double mask, especially if they are at risk. "The CDC does not clearly state that children should double mask," Nitin Desai, MD, CEO and chief medical officer of COVID PreCheck, told POPSUGAR. "Children should double mask, in my opinion, if they are at high risk, either because they are immunocompromised due to underlying conditions or if they are around a high-risk situation like a parent with acute COVID-19 infection or exposure to high risk of COVID-19 individuals, like healthcare workers."
However, the most important aspect is that masks fit properly and have an adequate filtration level. Prabhjot Singh, MD, PhD, chief medical and scientific advisor of CV19 CheckUp, told POPSUGAR that if one mask can accomplish both a great fit and high filtration level, then kids (and adults!) should be fine with just one. "The key is to find a mask that is comfortable, has a great fit, and has a high filtration level," he said. "If one mask can check all of these boxes, great. If two masks are needed to fit this criteria, then double-masking is recommended."
How can kids safely double mask?
First and foremost, remember that your child has to actually wear a mask for it to be effective, so you want their double mask to be comfortable. "Account for the age of your child in planning mask wearing, and remember that a mask that is pulled off because it's uncomfortable or embarrassing to your child offers no protection," said Kathleen Jordan, MD, internal medicine doctor, infectious disease specialist, and senior vice president of medical affairs for Tia.
Then, pay attention to fit. "Double masking with [an appropriate mask for their face size] would be best. Don't use one that is not snug on their face or that is single ply," explained Dr. Nachman. Look for masks that fit snugly without gaps around the nose or mouth (a nose wire can help with this). But also be sure not to leave your child unsupervised while wearing a mask, Dr. Desai said. And remember, if you have any specific concerns, you should check with your pediatrician.
How can parents get their kids to wear a mask or double mask?
Start by wearing a mask yourself to model it for your kids. "Adults modeling proper mask wearing can raise the level of comfort kids have wearing masks and can allow adults to test run the comfort of use of various masks," said Dr. Jordan. "Show them how it's done!" You can even practice putting a mask on, wearing it for a while, and taking it off as a family. You can even practice with a stuffed animal to help kids get the hang of it. "Start with one mask, and if the child is getting comfortable, start double masking, especially for high-risk children," Dr. Desai said. "Then, slowly increase the time of wearing a mask, starting at home."
To keep kids engaged, Dr. Keating suggested making masks fun, however you can. "For kids older than 2 years old, establishing a mask routine that your child embraces is the most important thing." Try using masks your kids are excited about, whether that be ones they've decorated, ones that feature their favorite cartoon character, or ones that match the rest of the family.
Although there are no official guidelines explicitly stating that kids should double mask, our experts agreed that there is no harm if they do. In fact, many recommend kids double mask, especially if they're at risk. Make the best parenting decision for your family, keeping in mind that all kids 2 and older should be wearing at least one mask when they go out.