See in which cases children are advised to use masks – 05/27/2022

In Brazil, an increase in the incidence of covid-19 and an increase in pediatric hospital admissions for respiratory viruses have prompted experts to recommend the use of masks in schools, even in young children.

The use of mouth protection was not mandatory for children under two years of age due to the risk of shortness of breath and suffocation. For adults, use is indicated, primarily, in a closed environment.

The main reasons for the increase in hospital admissions are respiratory viruses – such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza (flu), in addition to Covid-19.

The difference this year, doctors say, is that a higher number of infants and children were exposed to the virus at the same time, two years after the epidemic where they were isolated at home.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that masks should be used from the age of 7 on new coronaviruses. However, in Brazil we have had good experiences with children between the ages of 2 and 3. Adjustments have been made without problems. Fastow Floor Carvalho, president of the department, said that in the classroom, as far as possible, it is better for children to wear masks.

In the case of children, the best mask is the one in which they feel most comfortable. “Protective equipment must be well-adapted to the face – covering the mouth and nose – to prevent air from escaping. In general, surgical masks for children with triple layers are most recommended. Cloth masks can be used, but they are not very effective. N95 Masks are not recommended because they make children uncomfortable, “said Renato Kafuri, a pediatrician, infectious disease specialist and president of the immunization department of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP).

Pediatrician and neonatologist Maria Cecilia Correa Hypolito agrees. “Using a mask not only protects against new coronaviruses, but is valid for all respiratory infections, such as influenza,” the expert highlighted.

For Raquel Stucci, an infectious disease specialist at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), there should be an incidental need until the end of the coldest season.

A consultant with the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI) defended him, saying “the use of masks should be mandatory in a closed environment without natural ventilation, at least until the end of winter”. The recommendation is to change the mask every three hours or as needed.

On the other hand, experts are also concerned about the need for masks in the classroom, while free movement continues in other environments.

Throughout the epidemic, managers were criticized for prioritizing the opening of bars and gyms to the detriment of schools – Brazil being one of the countries where schools were closed for the longest time. Scientists are concerned about the cognitive and mental health consequences of children growing up and living together with their mouth protection, which changes the way they communicate with others.

Should children and children under 5 wear masks?

For children under 2 years of age, SBP warns that children should not wear masks, as severe saliva, small airways and motor immaturity increase the risk of suffocation.

Between 2 and 5 years, endless supervision is required. Most likely, the child will often feel uncomfortable in need of adjustment. It is advisable to evaluate the possibility of use individually according to the degree of maturity of each child.

Should children over the age of 5 wear a mask?

For 6 to 10 year olds, the recommendations are the same as for 2 to 5 year olds. By the age of 12, it is already possible to understand all the necessary instructions for proper use, removal, hygiene and disposal of the mask.

Should children with autism or special needs wear masks?

The SBP further clarifies that children and adolescents who have developmental delays and certain conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability and behavioral disorders, may have more resistance to wearing masks. In this case, it is worthwhile to try to train according to personal feedback and evaluate loyalty.

If the child has a risk factor for covid-19 or respiratory disease (asthma or pre-bronchiolitis), it is important to consult a pediatrician about the main guidelines at the peak of the disease.

How often should the mask be changed?

The recommendation is to change the mask every three hours or as needed.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19 and the common flu that require caution?

Symptoms include dry cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In case of agitation, it is important to seek medical help through telemedicine or in person.

What are the other preventative measures?

In addition to using a mask that is more than 2 years old, it is important to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Well-ventilated classrooms, outdoor activities, regular hand hygiene, social distance and warnings from vaccinated teachers and students (over 5 years old) must be maintained. Influenza vaccination is recommended from the age of six months.

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