As more online vendors sell cloth masks to battle the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), UC Davis pediatricians have one simple message: Face masks can be deadly for children under the age of 2.
“Masks may present a choking hazard for young children. Also, depending on the mask and the fit, the child may have trouble breathing. If this happens, they need to be able to take it off,” said UC Davis pediatrician Lena van der List. “Children less than 2 years of age will not reliably be able to remove a face mask and could suffocate. Therefore, masks should not routinely be used for young children.”
Online stores sell face masks to protect against COVID-19 to adults and children alike. Elastic bands and the strings that go around the head can also be strangulation hazards for children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend masking for children under the age of 2 due to risks of suffocation. Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, should not wear a mask, according to the CDC website.
“The younger the child, the more likely they will be to not wear the mask properly, reach under the mask and touch potentially contaminated masks,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “Of course, this depends on the developmental level of the individual child. But I think masks are not likely to provide much potential benefit over risk until the teen years.”