Here's the Age When It's Too Dangerous for Children to Wear a Face Mask

They may be helpful for adults, but younger kids are at serious risk when they wear a face mask.

For many of us, wearing a face mask anytime we venture out to a public place has become a fact of life—and in some states, a legally mandated one. There is, however, one noticeable exception: young children. But how young is too young to wear a face mask? According to a recent statement from a Japan medical group, children under the age of 2 may actually be in more danger from wearing face coverings than they are leaving the house without them.

"Let's stop the use of masks for children under 2-years-old," the Japan Pediatric Association warned on its website, noting that the coverings can make breathing difficult for babies and toddlers. That's because their airways and lungs have yet to fully develop, according to the medical group. "Masks can make breathing difficult because infants have narrow air passages," they note. This can also have the effect of added stress on the heart, which is acutely dangerous for young children.

The Japan Pediatric Association also warns that face masks can create an increased choking hazard, as young children might chew on loose pieces of cloth or elastic ties close to their mouths.

And it's not just respiration and choking you have to worry about as a parent of a child under 2. As spring weather gives way to hotter summer temperatures, masks also present an increased risk of heatstroke for young children.
All of these warnings have been echoed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which have both issued similar statements that advise against the use of cloth face masks on children under 2.

The good news is that young children seem to be at much lower risk of contracting COVID-19. Still, medical experts recommend plenty of mask-free alternatives for protecting young children from coronavirus. Shelli Dry, an occupational therapist and child development expert, previously told Best Life that this can include covering their car seat or stroller with a blanket while out or "simply limiting their time in public" as much as possible. And for more information on the right way for adults to protect themselves, check out The Real Reason You Shouldn't Reuse Your Disposable Face Mask.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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