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Back-to-school face mask tips for kids

A pediatric infectious disease doctor at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital gives recommendations on fit and use, as well as challenges wearing face masks for kids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With many students back in the classroom, wearing a mask is added to the list of daily expectations. 

Making sure they’re worn, and worn correctly, is most important. But that can be easier said than done. 

Dr. Daliya Khuon is a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. She gave recommendations on fit and use, as well as challenges of face mask wearing for kids.

Face Mask Fit
Dr. Khuon said parents should look for child-sized face masks in patterns, prints and styles their child likes. That’ll encourage them to wear it, and help them distinguish their mask from others. You don’t want them to swap or share masks. 

Of course, make sure it fits securely around their face, covering their nose and under their chin.

Dr. Khuon said at least two layers of 100 percent cotton makes a good mask, but bandanas and neck gaiter do not. 

Face Mask Use
When it comes to using the face mask, make sure your child knows to wash their hands or use sanitizer before and after taking it on and off.

This should be done by only touching the ear loops, placing it directly into their own labeled bag. 

Kids should avoid touching the front of their mask, or setting it down anywhere, like on their desk or directly in their backpack. 

Dr. Khuon recommends washing the masks after each use, so it’s helpful to have a different one for every day of the week. 

Face Mask Challenges
All of this can be especially difficult for young kids.

“Your 2-to-5-year-olds, I say practice with them,” Dr. Khuon said. “Model good mask wearing because if everyone else in the family is wearing it, this is the one time where I would say a little bit of peer pressure is okay. I do want them to understand that, ‘Hey mom and dad are wearing it, brother and sisters are wearing it, aunts, uncles, etc.’ Everyone that they see is wearing it then they might be more likely to do it.”

According to the CDC, stigma, discrimination, or bullying could happen because of wearing or not wearing a mask. 

Dr. Khuon says this is not something she has seen in her patients. She added, kids do internalize what’s happening around them, reiterating the importance of modeling good behaviors.

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