That seems to be the question of the day especially in regards to our kids. The confusion that parents are feeling is very real and I get the frustration. The truth is, it is confusing. The data is still lacking in some ways and it’s hard to make absolute decisions. In this article, I hope to present some of the facts and try to help you make some decisions that are right for your family.
Let’s talk about Covid in kids. In one study from Alberta, 2400 children were evaluated, among the 1987 children who tested positive, 35.9% were asymptomatic. The predominant symptoms were headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Respiratory symptoms were less severe. Another analysis of hospitalization data from 14 states showed that among children, the rate of hospitalization is 8.0 per 100,000 population vs adults which is 164.5. Of the hospitalized children 1 in 3 were admitted to the intensive care unit, one patient died. The hospitalization rates were highest among children aged <2 years and 42% had underlying medical condition. In summary, many kids are asymptomatic, most kids do very well, hospitalization rates are low and mortallity is very low.
Now, what about masks? If children are not so affected than why are they wearing masks? The CDC recently released some data regarding slightly more lax masking protocols for people that are vaccinated. Their recommendations, in a nutshell, if you are around other vaccinated people you do not need to wear a mask. If you are outside and not in crowd, you don’t need to wear a mask. But around other unvaccinated people and indoors it is still recommended you wear a mask.
But none of our kids are vaccinated, so how will that work? Well, here is where I think you need to evaluate the data, your family, and the associated risk. But let me go through a couple of examples that you may be thinking about.
If kids aren’t really getting sick then why do kids need to wear a mask at school? Well, although kids may do well, they still may pass it on to others who won’t do well. Like teachers, administrators, bus drivers…etc. So for the time being masking at school needs to continue, as we have no other data to show it shouldn’t. Also, I need to add that there have been no negative health consequence from wearing a mask. Even for prolonged periods. Especially a breathable cloth mask. And between staying home maskless, vs wearing a mask and going to school, I would always choose the ladder for everyone’s sanity!
What about masking at sports activities? Well, again, think about your family situation and take as many precautions as possible. The data is not as clear here. Obviously some sports are not amenable to wearing a face mask, like water sports or gymnastics, where the risk of entanglement is high but that does not mean that kids should not participate. My personal opinion, sports could be a lifeline for kids. In a world where everything turned upside down so rapidly, sports could provide kids a way to feel like a kid again and the benefits of physical activity are unmeasurable! So, if you and your kids do not have comorbid condtions, if there are not family members that are high risk then you may consider letting them play in sports.
So, you’re invited to a backyard family gathering and all the adults will be vaccinated but none of the kids are….does that mean everyone needs to mask up? Again, the data is not absolutely clear. Based on the guidelines on masking, the answer is yes. Unvaacinated kids still count in that decision, but if your kids are the only ones there and all the adults are comfortable, healthy, etc. I think (my opnion) it is reasonable to allow the kids to go maskless. If there are more kids and more families, the risk does increase and you need to think about questions like how “safe” are the other kids? Is this a family you’ve been quarantining with? Is this a family that’s been careful about decreasing exposure?