Mask Exemptions for Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If your child doesn’t want to wear a face mask, your pediatric provider might be able to offer more help than just an exemption.

Some parents who don’t want their kids to wear a mask at school might think about asking their pediatrician to write a mask exemption for their kids.

You can easily spread what you don't know you have... Remember, you can be contagious a few days before you have symptoms of COVID-19, which is why mask exemptions for kids aren't a good idea unless they are medically necessary. #BeInformed
You can easily spread what you don’t know you have… Remember, you can be contagious a few days before you have symptoms of COVID-19, which is why mask exemptions for kids aren’t a good idea unless they are medically necessary. #BeInformed

Before they do, they might understand that there are very few real medical reasons for these types of exemptions for wearing a mask.

Masks Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

More and more, we are learning that masks can help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, protecting both the person wearing the mask and the people around them.

“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer. The relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

Still, that doesn’t mean that everyone has gotten used to wearing them…

Hopefully, most folks do now understand why they are important though.

Wait, why are they important, especially if you are healthy and the people around you don’t have COVID-19?

Mostly it is because people with COVID-19 can be contagious:

  • up to two days before they start to show symptoms
  • up to two days before they test positive, even if they don’t have any symptoms

So if you are waiting to put on a mask until people around you have symptoms, then you will eventually get exposed, probably without even knowing it, and you might get sick, ending up in isolation, not being able to go to school or work.

And if you wait to put on a mask until you start to show symptoms, then you will likely eventually expose other people to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The alternative, if you want to reduce your risk of getting sick, is to just wear a mask any time that you can’t social distance (stay at least six feet apart) from other people.

Mask Exemptions for Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic

So what are the medical reasons that kids, like adults, can’t wear a mask all day while they are at school?

In general, a child over age two years should wear a face mask unless:

  • they have a physical or intellectual condition that would keep them from being able to remove their face mask by themselves
  • they can’t tolerate wearing a face mask because they have a condition such as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or a mental health disorder
  • they have a physical or intellectual condition and wearing a cloth face mask gets in the way of their ability to communicate

But shouldn’t these kids just do virtual school if they can’t wear a mask, instead of getting an exemption?

While that might be an option for some kids, others need the extra services that they get at school, which they can’t get with at home schooling.

In addition to a face mask exemption, some things that might work in some situations when a child won’t wear a mask include:

  • a face shield
  • a transparent face mask
  • using different fabrics for the mask
  • trying a bandana or gaiter
  • try to desensitize your child to wearing a mask

What about asthma?

In general, most kids with well controlled asthma should be able to wear a face mask. If your child’s asthma is so severe that it is made worse by wearing a face mask, then they likely need an evaluation by a pulmonologist and it might be best to avoid being around others during the pandemic.

If your child can wear a face mask, but just doesn’t want to, then it might help to allow them to pick their own mask, with a comfortable fabric and fit, maybe even getting a mask with a favorite character on it.

“Model it! Make it familiar by wearing a mask too.”

Getting Your Child to Wear a Mask

And don’t expect your child to want to wear a mask at school if you don’t wear a mask when you go out or if you don’t believe that wearing a mask is necessary.

More on Mask Exemptions