Just as we do not leave home in winter without a coat on or in summer without applying protective cream, lately the mask has become an essential to be outside the family home. It is one more measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from an individual point of view, but also a collective one. For children too? What about those who have skin problems? It can prevent atopic dermatitis in children by the use of masks?
Both before and after putting the mask on the child, proper hand washing should be done. Some children may not understand the need to use the mask or even be afraid to use them. In this sense, it is important to explain it to them in understandable terms for them, also seeing that it is an element used both by their parents and by other people on the street.
It should also be explained that it is a way to 'be safe from infection' to remove fear and give them confidence both to use the mask and to go out. Putting it on one of their toys or painting one of their favorite characters on the mask may help some children.
The use of masks, especially if it is for short periods of time, such as going for a walk, should not cause any health problems on the child's skin, so it is recommended to maintain the usual care of it. The materials from which they are made produce allergies with very low frequency.
But, What happens in the case of patients who previously suffered from skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis? The use of a mask can facilitate the appearance of an outbreak of the disease, although this generally appears with masks that produce greater occlusion and sealing, such as the masks of personal protective equipment (type FPP2 or FPP3).
If this occurs, you should follow the usual treatment prescribed by your doctor depending on the type of disease the child suffers from and, also, maintain and clean the skin daily (avoid too hot water and use non-perfumed gels), dry the skin with cotton without rubbing to avoid wounding and protect the skin from the sun.
A question that many parents ask is what kind of masks should children use. The use of hygienic masks with a size adapted to their age is recommended. For children between 3 and 12 years there are three different sizes of masks.
To check if the size is suitable, the mask should cover the mouth and nose extending from the anterior region of one ear to the other. Masks such as the FPP2, FPP3 or N95 models are not recommended for the general population. These masks should be used only in the event that the child suffers from a serious illness and is recommended by their doctor.
In those cases in which the child presents symptoms compatible with COVID-19 infection (cough, mucus, fever, diarrhea ...), is a confirmed case of infection or has been in close contact with a confirmed case, the use of surgical masks to avoid possible contagion.
It is also important to remember that 'the mask must be washed every time it gets dirty, damp or cannot be placed correctly on the face', as advised in the report 'Reusable hygienic masks for adults and children', according to a standard of the UNE, created the Technical Standardization Committees of the Spanish Association for Standardization.
The use of masks in closed spaces and on public roads is not compulsory for children under 6 years of age. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of masks in children over two years, not being recommended below that age due to the risk of suffocation.
It is important to remember that the use of masks should not be taken as an isolated preventive measure as it is not effective by itself. In this sense, when going out into the street it is important to ensure that children maintain an adequate safety distance from other people and that they do not come into contact with objects that can act as sources of transmission (benches or tables without disinfection, railings ...).
The mask should not be used for less than 2 years due to the possibility of suffocation or above if the child suffers some type of respiratory problem in which the mask can cause difficulty in breathing. It is important to check that the child has no problems removing the mask if necessary.
Also keep in mind that while wearing it, do not touch it with your hands. Some children may tend to put their hands on the mask, which would increase their risk of infection, so in this case it is not recommended to use it.
In cases where a mask cannot be used, if the child goes by car, for example, their mouth can be partially covered with a blanket, as long as they are adequately monitored and in turn the rest of the preventive measures should be increased (social distance and hand hygiene).
Author: Dr. Iñigo de Noriega, pediatrician and member of Elma's medical team.
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