Why Your Child Should Wear a Mask

Kids across the area are heading back to the classroom. Wearing masks is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks that could shut down schools and put students and staff at risk. In this Q&A, Memorial physician Ashish John, MD, talks about why masks work and debunks some common myths.

Why is it important for kids to wear masks at school?

Right now, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading extremely rapidly in central Illinois. It is significantly more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus we encountered last year—and is even more contagious than the common cold. If children don’t wear masks, the virus has the potential to spread rapidly across classrooms and entire facilities, leading to outbreaks that could potentially shut down entire school systems and put students and staff at risk.

Are kids at risk from the Delta variant?

Yes. Healthcare organizations locally and nationwide have seen cases rising among school-aged children and teens in recent weeks. Children with compromised immune systems due to preexisting health conditions are at greatest risk, and protecting them needs to be our first concern this school year. Making sure all children wear masks is the best way we can keep everyone safe.

Does the Delta variant make kids sicker than other variants of COVID-19?

The most recent data over the past month shows rising hospital admission rates in children with the Delta variant, especially in states with higher populations of unvaccinated people. When the
pandemic first began, children were often seen as being at a lower risk for COVID-19. This has definitely changed. The Delta variant appears to have more serious effects on the pediatric population, especially in those that are unable to be protected by vaccination, i.e., kids under 12 years of age. Masks and the other school mitigation measures are the best way to ensure kids go back to school safely and are able to stay in school safely.

Will wearing a mask lower my child’s oxygen levels?

Reliable studies have been conducted to answer this question, and they’ve shown that wearing a mask has only a minimal impact on the oxygen levels of children and adults. Wearing a mask doesn’t pose a risk to a healthy child. However, if you have concerns, or if your child has a medical condition that would make it impossible for them to remove their own mask if they needed to, ask their doctor for advice.

If your child is exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms, don’t wait to get them a COVID-19 test. Find a testing location near you at choosememorial.org/COVID19.

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