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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Kids and Masks

Even as more and more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, masks are still a proven way to help stop the spread of the virus.

How Do Masks Help?

COVID-19 can spread when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a mask keeps the virus from reaching others. It also can stop the virus from reaching you. An added bonus is that masks stop people from touching their mouths and faces — contaminated hands are another way for the virus to spread.

Who Should Wear a Mask?

In areas with many coronavirus infections, people should wear masks when indoors or when in crowded outdoor settings, even if they are fully vaccinated.

In all areas, people at higher risk of getting COVID-19 or of having a serious illness if they get infected should wear a mask when indoors or in crowds outside. This includes:

  • people who are not fully vaccinated
  • people who have weak immune systems or certain medical conditions

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids, teachers, staff, and visitors in schools and childcare settings in the U.S. wear masks, whether vaccinated or not.

Anyone traveling by public transportation should wear a mask while they travel.

Who Shouldn't Wear a Mask?

The only people who should not wear a mask are children younger than 2 years old, and anyone who can't take a mask off without help. 

Many studies have shown that masks can be safely worn by children over age 2, even if they have a health condition. Concerns about masks being unsafe have been disproven. Masks will not block oxygen from getting into a child’s lungs, and they don't affect learning and development.

How Should Masks Be Worn?

For masks to be most effective, make sure they:

  • have 2 or more layers
  • snugly cover both the nose and mouth, with no gaps on the sides
  • don’t have a vent
  • are washed often, if reusable (or are thrown out, if disposable)

What Can Help Kids When They Wear Masks?

Most kids are now used to seeing people in masks. Still, some toddlers and young children may feel uneasy about it. Masks hide part of a person's face, so kids can't see the friendly smile or familiar look that usually puts them at ease. When kids can't see the person's whole face, it's harder to feel safe. It's natural to feel scared.

Parents can help by explaining why they might need to wear a mask at school, childcare, and other public places. Even very young kids can learn that something that seemed scary at first is not scary after all.

To help kids wear masks when you go out:

  • Teach kids how to put masks on and take them off. Remind them that masks should always cover the nose and mouth.
  • Make it fun and personal. You can find fun, colorful masks in many stores. Looks for ones with superhero characters, movie favorites, silly faces, or animal prints. Kids might opt for a plain mask that they can decorate with markers, stickers, beads, or sequins. A personal touch can help make masks a more normal part of their routine.

For more information about masks, visit the CDC's guide.

  • Wear a Mask: Help Stop the Spread

    Wear a Mask: Help Stop the Spread

    How can wearing a mask help stop the spread of COVID-19? Find out how to keep yourself and others healthy.

Reviewed by: Jana L. Teagle, CTRS, CCLS, CBIS and Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2021