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Kids N95, K95, KF94, surgical masks — what do doctors recommend to help shield kids from COVID-19 now?
The return to school after winter break can be chaotic — and with the omicron variant surging, many parents are wondering how to best protect their kids. First up, if your child is eligible to get vaccinated, pros say do it. You should also make sure your child wears a mask, and wears in correctly: A child’s mask should cover the mouth and nose and fit snugly alongside the face, says Dr. Daniel Rauch, chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Tufts Children’s Hospital.
The kind of mask you pick matters too. Recent studies suggest cloth masks are less effective against the omicron variant than previously thought. So Rauch notes that you can double mask with a cloth and disposable mask, which will “improve protection.” And consider N95, K95 and KF94 masks that are specially made for kids, pros say. “N95 masks are the most protective mask models currently available,” says Dr. Serhat Gumrukcu, infectious disease expert and scientific researcher at Seraph Research Institute. That said, “KN95 and KF94 masks come very close to the level of filtration found in N95 masks,” explains Dr. Jim Sears, board certified pediatrician, former host of “The Doctors” and co-author of The Baby Book. Here are some masks that pros and review sites recommend.
“If the mask is made of cloth it should have multiple layers of tightly woven breathable fabric and a nose wire. The fabric should block light when held up to a light source and should not have any valves or openings and should not be single layer or thin enough to allow light through easily,” says Rauch.
Note that face masks can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including the vast majority of kids with underlying health conditions, with rare exceptions, says Rauch. “Children 2 years of age and older have demonstrated their ability to wear a face mask. In addition to protecting the child, the use of face masks significantly reduces the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infections within schools and other community settings,” says Rauch.