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While Americans aged 12 and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, younger children aren't. As a result, masking continues to be an important way for children under 12 to protect themselves against COVID-19.
That's especially true with the rise of the Delta variant across the country, which has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The Delta variant is now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain circulating in the U.S., which is even more contagious than prior strains," Dr. Rosemary Olivero, pediatric infectious disease physician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, tells Yahoo Life. "Especially when in indoor public spaces, having good quality face masks is very important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as reduce the risk of the mask-wearer getting infected with this highly contagious virus."
Basically, younger kids should be wearing a face masks anytime they're indoors around people from outside their household, like at school and at the grocery store.
Need more face masks for your younger family members? Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life that it's important for parents to follow the CDC's recommendations for picking out a quality face mask. Those include:
Choosing a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
Making sure the mask completely covers the nose and mouth
Ensuring the mask fits snugly against the face and doesn't have gaps
Looking for masks with nose wires to prevent air from leaking out of the top
Finding a mask that's specially designed for children to ensure a proper fit
Olivero stresses the importance of getting a comfortable mask "so it can be worn consistently without being taken off." A fun theme that kids can get into helps as well, Watkins says, noting, "my son likes his Spider-Man mask." Olivero agrees. "Kids love to have fun with what they wear!" she says. "Many children like to pick out their own patterns, fabrics and fits. So I advise including your kids in the process of choosing, so that they feel like they have some say in the decision."
Need to stock up on face masks for public spaces? These face masks for kids meet expert criteria.
There's so much to love about this popular Crayola mask five-pack. It features two layers of fabric, a bendable nose wire, and adjustable ear loops. But the biggest feature kids love is the silly faces on the front. With five different designs, children will have fun picking out a new look every day. "Cutest children's masks ever!" one fan wrote. "The material is very soft and the adjustable nose piece and ear straps make the masks easy to customize for your child." Another happy customer called these the "best reusable face masks," adding, "even my 2 year old is willing to wear it thanks to the adjustable ear loops and getting the perfect fit."
Don't feel like adding to your laundry pile? These bestselling surgical-style disposable face masks have the fun designs of cloth kids' face masks but your child can toss them after each use. Each three-layer mask pack contains 50 masks featuring five different designs. A wire nose bridge helps kiddos get a secure fit. An added bonus: Some designs are more mature, while others are a little younger, making this a good mask pack for families with bigger and smaller kids. "My kids looooved this," a happy parent said. "I have a boy and a girl...both my children can wear them." Another fan said that their 5-year-old "LOVES" the masks, adding," he doesn't mess around with it too much, so it must be comfortable enough for him."
This three-pack from Gap is great for older kids who might want something more plain. It features three layers of cotton and a contoured face shape for maximum comfort. The metal nose bridge and ear elastic is adjustable for that perfect fit. There's even an internal pocket for a filter insert.
"These are, hands down, the best masks I've found for my son! He loves the bendable nose piece and says they're 'super comfy!'" a five-star fan wrote in the reviews. A fellow happy customer called the masks "thoughtfully made," noting that they have "soft and breathable material."
Get the highest level of protection for your little one with the VIDA Kids KN95 Mask. This 10-pack features a five-layer filtration system of non-woven breathable fibers. Soft ear loops and a metal nosepiece help kids get a secure fit. And, while they're technically designed to be used once and tossed, VIDA says you can get away with using them more than that if they're not damaged. "They are comfortable, breathable, and fit well! There's no argument when I ask for one to be worn whether it's to walk around a store, perform a sport or just play with friends," a fan wrote in the reviews. A fellow happy customer said her daughters "only want to wear these masks," noting that "they provide great protection. These masks feel soft, not plasticy like other masks. They don't scratch like other masks. They feel good."
Shop it: VIDA Kids KN95 Mask, $35, shopvida.com
With 32 different designs to choose from — including animal faces, stars, rainbows and solid colors — children are sure to find a Weddingstar mask that they're excited to wear. These masks feature three layers of fabric, adjustable ear loops and a wire nose piece for a proper fit. They even have a hidden filter pocket for maximum protection. "The adjustable ear loops have made all the difference with comfort and staying in place all day in school," a satisfied customer wrote. A fellow fan calls the Weddingstar masks, "the nicest kid mask I've seen," adding, "the shape of this mask makes it fit my daughter better than most of the kids' masks out there."
Shop it: Weddingstar 3-Ply Kid's Washable Cloth Face Mask, $10, amazon.com
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.
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