With SMH Pediatrics Chair Jessie Hoang, MD
A recent email to our Healthe-Matters “Ask An Expert” inbox asked about face coverings for students, echoing a common question parents are asking as they try to safely prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.
To get the facts and expert insight on the topic, Healthe-Matters editors reached out to Dr. Jessie Hoang, who chairs Sarasota Memorial’s Pediatrics Department.
Face Shields & Face Masks for Kids
I’ve heard that children will be allowed to wear only a face shield at school, instead of a face mask. Do you have thoughts on this? Any references? ~ Elizabeth A.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend face shields as a substitute for cloth face coverings — for adults or children — nor does it recommend the use of face shields for normal everyday activities.
“A comfortable, breathable cloth face mask is preferable for children over the age of 2 in the school setting,” Dr. Hoang advised.
“Face shields may be used in addition to cloth face masks when sustained close contact (less than 6 feet) with other people is expected,” she explained, adding that this may be difficult for children of any age to tolerate. (Note that face shields should NEVER be used on newborns or infants.)
“If your child is having a hard time wearing both, a cloth face mask alone with physical distancing measures is preferred,” Dr. Hoang said.
Wearing both a mask and face shield (or safety glasses/goggles) has the added benefit of protecting the wearer’s eyes from others’ respiratory droplets. However, wearing a face shield without a mask does not definitively protect others from the wearer’s respiratory droplets, according to the CDC. If a face shield is to be worn without a mask, the CDC recommends that it wrap well around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin.
A good source for more information on wearing face shields is the CDC website; click here to learn more.
Mask Wearing Basics for Students
- Children younger than 2 should not wear face masks or face shields.
- Many children (and adults) habitually touch their faces, so frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) will help prevent the spread of all germs, including novel coronavirus.
- Practice wearing a face mask with your child prior to the start of the school year, and go over the dos and don’ts of mask use with them.
- Cloth face coverings should completely cover the nose and mouth. They should not be worn under the chin or left to dangle from an ear or even a lanyard/clip when not in use. Provide your student with a paper bag for mask storage when it’s not in use (for example, snack or meal times); label the bag with the child’s name.
- If possible, have 5 or 6 masks on-hand for each child, so he/she can wear a clean one to school each day of the week. A mask should be washed after each school day before it is worn again.
- If a student wears a face shield along with a face mask, be sure to clean and disinfect reusable face shields after each use; disposable face shields should be thrown away after a single use.
- If your child has special needs, such as a developmental delay, sensory disorder or physical condition that prevents him/her from wearing a cloth face covering, talk to your child's pediatrician about alternative options.
Most importantly, if your child has a fever or you think he/she may be sick, keep them home from school and call your pediatrician for guidance.
Video Q&A: For more medical expert insights on safely returning to schools during a pandemic, click here to check out our July 30, 2020 Ask An Expert video Q&A with infectious disease specialist Manuel Gordillo, MD, who leads Sarasota Memorial's Infection Prevention and Control Department, and First Physicians Group pediatrician Deirdra Myers, MD.
* NOTE: Information above was last updated July 21, 2020. Information related to COVID-19 is continually evolving. For the most up to date info, we recommend also visiting the CDC’s website.