Who would’ve thought that face masks would still be such an integral part of our lives? The new normal wasn’t the norm and sanitisers were still for the occasional use. However, the pandemic has brought a slew of changes that are here to stay, especially wearing a face mask in public spaces.
For newborns, toddlers and kids, face masks are going to be an increasingly common visual. It will be something they will see the adults around them wear regularly and is likely to seem normal to them.
However, should you buy an infant face mask for your child? While it may seem the norm today, there’s more to it that you should know about.
Are Infant Face Masks Mandatory?
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Initially made mandatory for all residents of Singapore, the Ministry of Health amended its norms in September 2020 that made face masks optional for children under the age of six. The amended COVID-19 (Temporary measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 updated the minimum age for children to wear masks to 6-years-old and above, going up from the previous age of 2-years-old and above.
At the time, the ministry’s Director of Medical Services, Kenneth Mak, had said, “To protect young children from Covid-19, we continue to encourage young children to wear a mask or a face shield, especially if they are in a group setting, for example, in pre-school or when they are in social activities interacting with other kids.”
Should Infants Under 2 Years Wear A Face Mask?
The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) states that children under two years of age shouldn’t be wearing a face mask.
A mask can be a choking hazard and shouldn’t be worn by anyone, especially children who would be unable to remove it.
Infants aren’t able to communicate if they can’t breathe well, and this can have adverse effects on the child if left unattended.
However, using a face shield can be an option, which will work particularly well if your child is claustrophobic. Do note, face shields do not offer any protection from inhaling contaminants.
Emotional Impact Of Children Growing Up Around Adults With Face Masks
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Facial gestures are an extremely important part of a child’s growth and social development cycle and it will be interesting to know how will the concept of wearing a face mask affects the growth and learning pattern of a child.
While this may not seem too much of a problem for a stay-at-home parent or couples living in a larger family, it will be a problem for children in the constant care of babysitters or caregivers, who wear masks regularly.
Dr Anusha Lachman, of the Psychiatry Department at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, says that early experiences have the potential to develop the trajectory of the brain and the overall long-term growth of the child.
However, it is still too early to determine the long-term effects of constantly wearing a mask around your little one. Concerns were raised about the issue that varied from having a lack of facial cues to learning the faces of friends, family, and strangers.
It also needs to be noted that parents will have to be extra-communicative with infants when wearing a face mask. However, Dr Lachman states that there is no substitute for a shared smile, which helps build the bond between the parent and the baby in the early months.
Should Infants Wear Face Masks in Public?
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A safer option of wearing a facemask is wearing a face shield for infants that does not pose a choking risk. However, it would be best to avoid public spaces during this period. At the same time, you can use a car seat with a cover, a stroller with a cover, or use a stroller with the awning down to keep your baby protected.
What Types Of Face Masks Should Children Wear?
For children who are two years old and above, the US CDC recommends wearing a mask that fits snugly against the side of the face.
Use the ties or ear loops to secure the face mask. Make sure it has multiple layers of fabric.
The mask needs to be breathable and flexible enough to be laundered and reused without any damage to its shape.