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Kids and COVID: Keeping the Whole Family Safe as We Spring Back to Life

In the whirlwind that has been the past year of pandemic, kids have gotten pushed and pulled in every direction imaginable. It’s certainly not their fault. As information has evolved rapidly, the best ways to keep our children safe--physically, developmentally and emotionally--have been tough to sort out.

As more kids resume in-person learning and normal activities, there are a few things that have luckily become clear. And a bunch of myths that have been debunked. Read on to learn more about how to keep your whole family safe as we open our doors to tackle this new reality together.

COVID-19 in Kids

It is no secret that the most at-risk populations with respect to COVID are individuals over the age of 65 and those with preexisting conditions. This does not mean, however, that children cannot contract, carry, transmit, get sick or even succumb to the virus.

That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that children practice the same germ-fighting practices as adults: proper handwashing, cough/sneeze etiquette, social distancing and mask-wearing.

Children should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, use sanitizer as needed and limit in-person playtime (preferably outdoors) while practicing social distancing. It is also recommended that children over the age of 2 mask up when outside their homes.

While early studies suggested that kids do not contribute much to the spread of COVID, more recent findings indicate that infected children have as much, or more, of the virus in their upper respiratory systems as adults. Most of these studies measure viral RNA as opposed to live virus. Although this may not be hard proof that kids can be infectious, the presence of viral genetic material alone is enough to suggest the possibility.

And if we have learned anything in the past year-plus, it is always best to proceed with caution.

As in adults, the coronavirus presents along a spectrum in children. Many experience little to no symptoms. At most mild, COVID-19 may produce a low-grade fever, fatigue or cough.

Less common are severe complications, one of which--multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)--can be life-threatening. The heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs can all be affected by this condition.

Symptoms of MIS-C can include:

  • Fever lasting beyond two days
  • Rash
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • A large, swollen lymph node in the neck
  • Neck pain
  • Red, cracked lips
  • A tongue that is very red with strawberry-like appearance
  • Swollen hands and/or feet
  • Irritability and/or unusual fatigue

Cases of MIS-C have been detected across all ages, from infants to teens and young adults.

Kids and Masks

While the CDC states that children over the age of 2 should wear masks in public spaces, the World Health Organization (WHO) has slightly different guidelines. It recommends that children under the age of 5 should be exempt from masking up. Regardless of the discrepancy, school-age kids should, without a doubt, be protected while in academic environments and during extracurricular activities.

For masks to be effective they must:

  • Cover the nose, mouth and chin
  • Fit snugly yet comfortably with no gapping on the sides of the face
  • Be secured with ear loops or ties
  • Be made with multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for unrestricted breathing
  • Be washed and dried after each use

Adults should instruct children how to properly put on and take off masks. Hands should be kept from pulling/adjusting the mask while in use. And masks should be kept out of the mouth and stored in a protective bag if taken off outside the home.

Mother putting mask on child

Children in good health can wear fabric masks, which will essentially protect others from them, should they be unknowingly infected. Children with underlying health conditions should wear medical masks. This will ensure they are best shielded from others who might possibly transmit the virus.

A lot has been said over the course of the pandemic relative to masks and kids. Kimberly M. Dickinson, MD, MPH and Theresa W. Guilbert, MD, MS, FAAP, do a thorough job of debunking some of the most popular myths in their article titled Mask Mythbusters: 5 Common Misconceptions About Kids and Face Cloth Coverings. We summarize their findings here:

  1. Masks will not make it harder for a child to breathe. Fabric masks are made of materials that will not inhibit oxygen intake.
  2. Masks will not interfere with lung development. They actually make sure that your child’s lungs stay healthy by helping to prevent infection with viruses like COVID-19.
  3. Masks do not trap the carbon dioxide we breathe out. Carbon dioxide particles are much smaller than respiratory droplets and cannot be trapped by breathable materials.
  4. Masks will not put the body under stress or weaken the immune system. Masks are the immune system’s best asset in that they are not tried by dangerous viruses like COVID-19.
  5. Masks absolutely protect against COVID-19 transmission. Masks create the necessary barrier to reduce respiratory droplets and spray from person-to-person interactions.

There are a plethora of cloth mask options on the market for kids and adults alike. And, as mentioned earlier, the majority of fashion fabric masks will help to contain the virus. This means that they will prevent children from transmitting the virus to other children and adults should they become contagious.

But as in-person schooling, sports, dance classes and more open up, we can do better by our children. Not only can we protect others from them, but we can give them the defense they need to keep them safe in the first place.

GuardeX has just released its original Anti-Bacterial/Anti-Viral Face Mask in a new Petite size. Best suited to children ages 4 and up, teens and adults who prefer a petite fit, this mask is the ideal choice for protection and comfort on all fronts.

Replaceable filters offer 95% filtration efficiency. Optifit earloops ensure custom comfort. Breathable antimicrobial fabric makes for a mask that is 40% lighter than most others. And fun colors--neon pink and green--make your child’s best accessory yet something they actually want to wear.

If we are going to mask up, we might as well do it to the best of our ability. So know what your family is using and understand how to use it properly. Masks may very well become a permanent fixture in society, especially seasonally, so it is beneficial to understand the ways they work to keep all of us safe.

What the Vaccine Means for the Whole Family

As a massive vaccine rollout is underway across the country, children will still be left vulnerable to the virus. Children under 21 make up 25% of the population. While immunizing adults is a huge step in the right direction, our chances for herd immunity improve once we are able to get vaccines into everyone.

Pfizer has successfully performed a clinical trial for kids ages 12-15; Moderna recently began studying vaccine performance in children 6 months to 11 years old, with another spanning the 12-17 age group. Johnson & Johnson has testing on the younger age set at the top of its list as well.

The reason the path to vaccination is slower for children than that for adults is that more testing is necessary to account for the changing biologies of younger age groups. There are also more protections in place for testing conducted on children which necessitates a lengthier process.

Until everyone, everywhere is able to receive one of the available vaccines, certain precautions will remain a part of daily life. And as children return to school and resume normal activities, masking up is going to be one of the most important ways we can certify their safety.

So we gear up to keep on style. This past year has been confusing enough for the kids in our lives we love so much. But the future is bright. We just have to move forward, safely, together.