The WHO has released its guidance on face masks for children, as students in some parts of the country as school start a new year.
Children ages 5 and younger are not required to wear masks, says WHO, since most are not able to put them on without help.
WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a document dated August 21, children aged 12 and over should particularly wear masks when a one-meter distance from others cannot be guaranteed and there is widespread transmission in the area.
Whether children between six and 11 should wear masks depends on a number of factors, including the intensity of transmission in the area, the child’s ability to use the mask, access to masks, and adequate adult supervision, the two organizations said.
WHO together with UNICEF, the International Pediatric Association, and other health organizations and experts to come up with the guidelines. Their findings stress that there is limited evidence about how the coronavirus is transmitted in children, but that some evidence shows younger children “may have lower susceptibility to infection compared to adults,” but that this may vary by age. Older children may be more likely to spread the virus than younger ones, according to WHO.
Further, the WHO advises that the benefits of children wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “should be weighed against potential harm associated with wearing masks, including feasibility and discomfort, as well as social and communication concerns.”
Studies suggest older children potentially play a more active role in the transmission of the new coronavirus than younger children, the WHO, and UNICEF said, adding more data was needed to better understand the role of children and adolescents in the transmission of the virus, which causes COVID-19.