As the school year rolls around and people put thoughts of summer behind them, parents and guardians are beginning to face a new challenge: teaching their children to wear masks.
At the end of July, these people would typically be busy buying new lunchboxes and colored pencils to prepare for the first day of school. Because of the national COVID-19 pandemic, school supply boxes now include masks and extra hand sanitizer.
“It is important that children wear masks to protect them from others and protect others from them,” said Riley Physicians pediatrician James Laughlin, MD.
Laughlin reported that studies show up to 40% of those with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they show no symptoms despite carrying the disease. These asymptomatic carriers can pass on COVID-19 to others and infect them.
By wearing masks, asymptomatic carriers significantly reduce the risk of passing on COVID-19. Wearing a mask also protects people who do not have the virus from contracting the disease. Considering this, schools will require students to wear masks when the school year starts in August.
Wearing a mask every day to school will be a big adjustment for students. Dr. Laughlin recommends that parents have an age-appropriate discussion with their children about the importance of wearing masks—parents should explain that “with normal breathing, sneezing, coughing, singing, and talking, we can spread germs.”
Children may not want to wear a mask, but their parents and guardians need to encourage them to wear it anyway.
“Parents should explain to their children that wearing a mask shows you care and love your friends and neighbors because they (masks) keep others healthy,” said Dr. Laughlin.
He noted that giving positive reinforcement to your child such as telling him or her that you are proud of them for wearing a mask will help encourage them to keep the mask on during school.
Dr. Laughlin also suggested that parents have their children participate in buying, making, or choosing their mask to “really help encourage ownership and pride in their mask to improve compliance.”
Other than wearing masks, there are other important healthy practices that students should follow when going back to school to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Parents should encourage children to wash their hands before and after going to the cafeteria, the restroom, and recess.
“Parents should also teach their children how to cough and sneeze into their elbow, explain that there should be no touching or hugging, and show them how far six feet away is conceptually,” said Dr. Laughlin.
As life goes on for all of us and a new school year begins, children in schools need to know how to do their part to keep everyone safe.