Even as the world adapts to a new normal of wearing face masks, Centres for Disease Control globally maintain that children aged below two years should not wear mask or anything that covers their faces.
How can you protect your infant or toddler from infection?
Children are not small adults. Their bodies, respiratory and immune systems do not respond the same way adults’ bodies do.
In Kenya as is all over the world, infants aged 2 and below have tested positive. For example on May 10th, a 1 year, 9-month old child tested positive, on May 8th, an 11-month-old, on May 5th a 2-year-old and on April 30th, a 1 and ½ month old infant were also confirmed cases, but despite these increase in the number of cases, medics do not recommend masks for infants.
Dr. Anne Marie Macharia, an infectious disease specialist treating children at the Kenyatta National Hospital explains that babies’ airways are smaller and they do not process carbon-dioxide the way adults do. Therefore, re-breathing behind the mask is dangerous.
“If a child tests positive, it is highly likely, there is an adult who has tested positive and infected the child. The risk of children transmitting is minimal. Especially if the child is sick if you that mask on their face you can suffocate that child,” says Dr. Macharia.
If they are struggling to breathe, infants are unable to take the mask off themselves and they could suffocate.
Older infants or young toddlers are not likely to keep the masks on and will likely try to remove it, as well as touch their face more often due to the masks annoying them further exposing them to the virus.
How to protect infants and toddlers who cannot wear masks?
“Minimize going out. If you must, maintain strict social distance. Wash your hands. Don’t touch a child with hands that are not clean,” adds Dr. Macharia.
If one must go to public spaces with an infant or toddler, the outings must be as short as possible. Any covering, if the baby is in a pram or baby carrier must be light and breathable. Children must never be left unattended.
For children of between ages 3 to 6 wearing a mask may still tricky experts say. Parents are therefore encouraged to use their best judgement.