Children's Hospital Colorado

Masks for Kids: What You Need to Know About Face Coverings


Editor's note: This page was updated on Aug. 16, 2021. Please follow all rules and guidelines set by state and local public health and safety authorities. Reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for current guidance.

Since wearing a face covering while in public helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, masking is important for unvaccinated individuals – including children.

We spoke with several of our experts, pediatric infectious disease doctors Samuel Dominguez, MD, PhD, Sara Saporta-Keating, MD, and Jessica Cataldi, MD, pediatric pulmonologist Monica Federico, MD, clinical psychologist Jenna Glover, PhD, MS, BS, and child life specialist Jennifer Staab, MS, CCLS, to get the nitty-gritty details on cloth face coverings for kids: when to wash them, which kind to wear, how to set your kid up for success and why the guidelines changed again.

Delta and masks: when to cover up

For a short time this summer, the CDC relaxed masking guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals in the U.S. On July 27, the CDC updated these guidelines to say everyone should mask indoors when there are high rates of community transmission of COVID-19.

Why are masks coming back?

As viruses spread, they change and mutate naturally. Some of these mutations can change how easily the virus spreads between people. That’s what happened with the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Delta quickly became the dominant strain of the virus because it’s able to transmit between people more efficiently – in fact it’s proving to be more than twice as contagious than the original strain. With this significant change in the pandemic, public health recommendations had to change accordingly.

The CDC is now advising all individuals wear masks while indoors in areas where the coronavirus is spreading quickly. This includes most areas of the U.S. and Colorado, and it’s a key reason that the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and other public health organizations advise all children to wear masks in schools.

What about the vaccines?

Vaccines remain our best protection against COVID-19. In the U.S., we’re fortunate to have multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines widely available. But until many more people are vaccinated – including kids under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccines – masks are still an important tool for prevention. Especially while the delta variant is spreading.

Although vaccines are highly effective, they are not perfect and medical experts expect that there will be some vaccine “breakthrough infections.” This means a small number of people who have been vaccinated could still get sick. (The good news here is that the severity of the disease in people who have been vaccinated is significantly less. The small number of people who may get sick even after vaccination are much less likely to need hospitalization or face significant health impacts from the virus, including death.)

While most of us are tired of wearing masks, they continue to be an effective and simple way to limit the spread of COVID-19. The more we control transmission with layers of protection – including vaccines, masks, proper handwashing and social distancing – the less we risk stronger variants of the virus emerging and the sooner we can end the pandemic.

The latest guidance

Face coverings 101: the evidence

We get it. Wearing a cloth face covering can feel like a nuisance. But face coverings are still critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping everyone safe. This isn’t opinion – it’s based on the best available science, which researchers around the globe and our experts are evaluating daily. Here are some common questions and misconceptions to clear up.

Face masks for kids: the nuances

As with all things, guidelines for kids and face coverings aren’t one-size-fits-all; there are nuances. So we outlined some specific situations and asked our experts for their guidance based on the best-available evidence thus far.

Everyday tips for getting your kids to wear their masks

Sometimes (well, oftentimes) it takes practice and influence to change your child’s behavior. We rounded up tips for getting your kid used to wearing their face covering.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for kids

OK, masks are important, but what about other protective gear?

Masks and sports

Asthma and face coverings

It’s understandable for parents of kids with asthma, the most common chronic condition in childhood, to have questions about whether face coverings could worsen asthma symptoms. But if your child with asthma is having a difficult time with their face covering, it’s typically because they’re anxious about it or because they need to check in with their doctor about their asthma. Dr. Federico, the medical director of Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Asthma Program, shares more.

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