Face masks are the newest, must-have accessories for the new normal, but while there are a lot of cute options available for kids, parents must refrain from putting one on children below 2 years old. According to a medical group in Japan, masks can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking.
Just like how the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has required the wearing of face masks in public, Japan’s latest coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) guidelines also recommend individuals to wear masks when it is difficult to maintain social distancing. But the Japan Pediatric Association has issued a warning to parents to avoid putting one on infants because it makes it difficult to notice changes in face color, expression, and breathing.
“It is possible that masks make it difficult for infants to breathe and increase the risks of heat stroke,” reads a leaflet from the medical group.
The leaflet also says that “masks can make breathing difficult because infants have narrow air passages,” increasing the burden on their lungs. There is also an increased risk of suffocation if small children vomit behind the mask.
According to the association, infants are relatively low risk for COVID-19 infections, making masks unnecessary for kids under 2 years old. Most cases in Japan that involved children came from infections from family members and there were no outbreaks at schools or day care facilities.(Newborns may be susceptible to the virus through person-to-person spread. Learn more here.)
According to their statement, facial protective coverings like face shields or face masks are prohibited for newborn use because “of the high risk of suffocation, leading to lack of oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide retention.” It can also cause strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if the protective coverings are displaced. Moms may also be discouraged to breastfeed or decrease the frequency of feeding because removing and putting on face shields can be cumbersome.
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If there is really a need to bring your baby outside, you can cover the baby carrier, seater, or stroller (not the newborn) with a blanket, which will help protect your baby but still lets them breathe comfortably.