Parents have been warned not to put face masks on babies and very young children due to the risk of suffocation.
Government advice states children under the age of 11 are exempt from the rules about mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport.
“Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of three or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly,” the guidance adds.
But after spotting face coverings and masks for babies available for sale online, Public Health England (PHE) has issued an urgent warning to parents urging them not to put masks on children under the age of three.
“We've been made aware that face coverings for babies and very young children are available for sale in England,” reads a tweet from the official PHE account.
“Children under the age of three should NOT wear face coverings, as they could cause choking or suffocation.”
The tweet goes on to quote Professor Viv Bennett, chief nurse at PHE, who reiterates the dangers of very young children wearing face masks.
We've been made aware that face coverings for babies and very young children are available for sale in England.— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) July 23, 2020
Children under the age of three should NOT wear face coverings, as they could cause choking or suffocation. pic.twitter.com/vmTMMdwioJ
The quote states: “PHE has been made aware that face coverings for babies and very young children are available in England.
“Guidance is clear that children under the age of three years should NOT wear face coverings or masks, these masks should not be used as they are potentially dangerous and can cause choking and suffocation.
“If you or your child is unwell with the symptoms of COVID-19, then you should get a test and stay at home until you the get the result.
“If you are worried then you should call 111 and speak to your doctor.”
A separate warning has also been issued about face masks that have dummies attached to them, which are also available to buy online.
The Pendle Family Zone Facebook group, which represents ‘Children and Family Wellbeing Services’ in Lancashire, shared a post on its page warning against the use of masks with dummies attached.
“One of ELHT's [East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust] amazing Community Midwives has brought this to our attention, after seeing this promoted as a cute idea for babies,” the post reads.
“Please, please, please do not do this!
“Babies are too little to wear a mask, and this design looks like it would increase the risk of suffocation.”
The post also quoted the safer sleep charity Lullaby Trust, which says: “We are not aware of any advice for babies to wear masks, whether they are infected or not.
“There is a potential risk of suffocation and other hazards with doing this. The latest Government guidance says that children under 3 yrs do not need to wear masks.”
Dr Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, reiterated the advice given by PHE for parents to avoid using face masks on very young children.
“You should never cover a baby’s airway,” she tells Yahoo UK. “This could suffocate your baby.”
Dr Lee says that in order to reduce the risk of cot death (SIDS), the NHS advises parents never to cover their baby’s face.
“Use of a face mask would completely contravene these recommendations,” she adds.
According to Lullaby Trust there are around 200 cot deaths (SIDS) every year in the UK. And while numbers have been falling since 2004, Dr Lee urges parents not to let the COVID-19 pandemic reverse this trend.
Additionally wearing a mask will encourage your baby to touch their face, which could also increase the risk of transmission of the virus.
Follow the best advice about how to care for your baby during the pandemic.
The NHS – COVID-19: Advice for Parents