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COVID-19 Precautions for Kids ~ Ask An Expert Q&A

COVID-19 Precautions for Kids ~ Ask An Expert Q&A

With First Physicians Group Pediatrician Jose Tavarez, MD

With many beaches and parks open again — and the end of virtual school 2020 nearing — local families are venturing out of the house more and are weighing kids’ summer camp options. 

To help our community safely move through this new chapter of the COVID-19 health crisis, Healthe-Matters editors reached out to Dr. Jose Tavarez, a pediatrician with First Physicians Group Pediatrics in Lakewood Ranch, for his insights on face masks for kids and summer camp precautions. Here’s what he had to say.

Face Masks for Children

Should my child wear a face mask or face covering in public? Is it really worth it?

We recommend that children ages 2 and older wear a face mask in public places where social distancing may not be possible at all times — places like stores, restaurants and crowded parks. But this recommendation comes with a few caveats:

  • For it to be effective, a face mask must be worn correctly (more on this below) — that can be challenging for children and nearly impossible for many toddlers or anyone with special needs. If wearing the mask makes a child touch his/her face more frequently or the mask becomes an entertaining toy, then it can actually increase transmission risk. 

    Face masks will not work for every child, and that’s fine. If your child is not able to follow instructions for keeping his/her hands off the mask or to keep a distance from others, it’s probably best to keep him/her at home until it’s safer.

  • Wearing a face mask does NOT replace other necessary precautions, like social distancing and proper hand hygiene (washing frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer with 70% or more alcohol).

    If you don’t have a cloth face mask that will fit a child, you can create a face covering from a T-shirt or bandanna. Click here for a DIY tutorial from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And yes, it’s worth it. Anything we can do to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the COVID-19 disease it causes, is worth it.

How can I teach my child to wear a face mask?

Plan to introduce him/her to wearing a face mask while you’re at home, where the child can safely and comfortably try it on, touch it and ask questions. You’ll want to check the fit (covers nose and mouth) and make sure the child can breathe through it.

Teach them how to properly put it on and take it off, and remind them not to touch it while they’re wearing it.

Make the learning fun for kids! Demo mask use on stuffed animals, use decorated and colorful masks and show pictures of other kids wearing them. Always provide positive reinforcement, and emphasize how they are helping their family and their community by taking steps to be safe.Covid mask practice for kids

Should my child wear a mask while playing outdoors? 

Mask wearing outdoors is encouraged when the child cannot keep a safe physical distance (6 feet) from others or avoid touching different surfaces.

My child has a fever and other symptoms (sore throat, cough, rash, respiratory or stomach problems); is it safe to take him out, if he wears a mask?

No! He should be kept at home, and you should call his pediatrician. If you do not have a pediatrician or other medical provider, call the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center at 941-861-2883.

Proper Mask Use Reminders

  • Be sure the mask covers your child’s mouth and nose; improperly fitted masks create opportunities for cross-contamination.

  • Have your child practice hand hygiene before and after handling the mask — every time. Because the outside of the mask is considered dirty, kids should avoid touching it, pulling it down below their chin or leaving it dangling to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Teach your child to use only the mask’s straps when putting it on or taking it off.

  • Keep a paper bag handy for storing the mask when it’s not being worn; never store a dirty mask in a purse or pocket.

  • Wash fabric face masks or face coverings after every use.

Click here for more on safe and proper mask use.

Summer Camp During COVID-19

Should I have my child wear a mask while attending summer camp next month?

It would be a good idea to have your child wear a mask during dropoff and pickup at camp, if they will be around non-campers. 

It’s extremely unlikely, however, that a child could wear a face mask all day without touching it excessively or that he/she could remember to follow mask-use recommendations without your supervision. So we do not recommend asking your child to wear a mask all day during summer camps.

Instead, we highly recommend talking to the camp’s organizers to confirm that they are following related CDC recommendations, that they have measures in place to ensure the health and safety of campers and families, and that they have trained staff accordingly. These would include things like required handwashing at various times (camper dropoff, coming in from outdoors, snack time, etc.), reduced enrollment to support proper physical distancing, symptom and temperature screening for staff and campers, and no shared toys or other items.

Click here to see what the CDC advises for operating camps and youth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more SMH expert insights on COVID-19 in our community, click here. Have a question for Dr. Tavarez? Email it to askanexpert@smh.com.


Board-certified pediatrician Jose Tavarez, MD, serves patients and families at the First Physicians Group Pediatrics office in Lakewood Ranch (941-366-3000).

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Posted: May 19, 2020,
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Author: Ann Key
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