Masks will forever be a tool in preventing disease spread. But, as mandates begin to lift and parents make the hard decision as to whether or not to keep their kids masked in school, we asked leading experts to bust the myths about masks and kids.
Aaron Collins, aka the Mask Nerd, is a mechanical engineer with a background in aerosol science. He is also a father. Since 2020, Collins has been sharing his evaluations of masks in terms of filtration and fit on his Twitter page @masknerd.
Dr. Katrine Wallace, also known as Dr. Kat, is an epidemiologist and mother who uses her Instagram page @epidemiologistkat to debunk misinformation, answer COVID questions and make complex data accessible to parents.
MYTH: Wearing a mask will make it harder for my child to breathe.
Dr. Kat (and the American Lung Association) say masks are designed to be breathed through, and there’s no evidence that low oxygen levels occur.
MYTH: Wearing a mask will trigger my child’s asthma or allergies.
“According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) there is no evidence that wearing a mask worsens asthma,” says Dr. Kat.
Collins adds that masks actually filter common allergens like pollen, dust and mites.
MYTH: Masks trap the carbon dioxide that we normally breathe out.
Dr. Kat says, “CO2 molecules are much smaller than viruses and can easily pass through any cloth mask material. There has never been any evidence of ‘CO2 poisoning’ occurring from masks.”
Collins adds that multiple studies show that masking doesn’t impact blood oxygen levels.
MYTH: Masks lead to a weaker immune system because we’re not getting exposed to regular germs.
“Your immune system isn’t going to forget pathogens it’s come into contact with before,” says Dr. Kat. “Also, respiratory droplets are not the only way we come into contact with microbes and viruses.”
MYTH: We should all wear the mask with the highest number printed on it.
Collins and Dr. Kat agree: The best mask for kids in terms of COVID and potentially future viral threats is the KF94 or KN95. (Collins says that N95 masks don’t come in child sizes, so it can be difficult to get a good fit on a child.)
MYTH: If a mask fogs up my kid’s glasses, it’s not protecting them from COVID.
That fog could be from a poor fit, or you could be seeing air that’s already passed through the mask. Collins explains that since warm air rises, a warm, humid exhale that’s passed through a well-fitting mask can still fog glasses. To check, use your fingers to seal the mask against the face and see if your child still fogs up.
MYTH: I bought a mask on Amazon and it says KN95. We’re good, right?
Collins recently tested masks purchased from the Amazon marketplace and discovered that 25% of the masks did not meet the standard they were labeled to. He recommends purchasing directly from vetted suppliers like Project N95, 3M, or Kollecte.