mom helping toddler girl with face mask
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How To Make Face Masks More Comfortable For Kids, According To Experts

Whether it’s going to the store or school, your child will most likely need to wear a face mask this fall. But even though you can might be able to make kids understand why they should wear masks, helping them feel comfortable with a cloth covering on their face is another issue entirely. So how can you make face masks more comfortable for kids? There are some solutions to make it work.

This past spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued mask guidelines for everyone ages 2 and up. And in that time period, masks have not only become much easier to find, they've become much more stylish, too. That doesn’t mean that all kids actually enjoy wearing them, however, which is why you might need to come up with a creative solution so your kiddo won’t complain (or at least not that much, anyway).

There are a surprising amount of options to make masks work for your child, especially if you're willing to think outside the box. You can even make modifications to an existing mask, pediatrician Dr. Corey Fish, M.D., FAAP, tells Romper in an email. “Obviously cutting holes in the mask will make it less effective, but there’s nothing wrong with padding the ties or padding other contact areas with small pieces of extra cloth such as a soft fleece material,” he says. “A little fabric glue and scraps from an old garment or fabric store and you’re good to go.”

With the help of these ideas, hopefully wearing a mask won't be such a big deal.


Pick Out The Mask Material Together

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Part of the problem when it comes to masks is the material. So even if you want your child’s mask to be impenetrable to cooties floating in the air, they also have to be able to breathe through it, too. The first step: having your child take part in selecting the mask. “Most retail masks are made from cotton, silk, neoprene, other synthetic material, or some combination of all of those,” says Dr. Fish. “Other than medical grade N-95 masks that have been specially fitted and tested, no one knows what kind of mask is best but any mask is better than no mask at all.” To ensure that your child will wear the mask, let them feel the various types of masks (and the elastic ear bands) to see what feels scratchy, itchy — or just right.


Opt For Behind-The-Head

When it comes to face masks, your child has more than once choice than just behind-the-ear loops. In fact, some kids who struggle with ear irritation can greatly benefit from behind-the-head masks. “Some kiddos won’t like the feeling of something behind their ears but they do great with ties around their head and back of the neck,” says Dr. Fish. For example, these behind-the-head masks eliminate the pressure off the ears and makes mask wearing more manageable.


Use Ear Savers

One of the biggest complaints about masks is that they make ears feel uncomfortable and itchy. So if your child can’t handle a behind-the-head mask, ear options might be the way to go... thanks to ear savers. They hook onto the ear loops and extend them around the head to alleviate the pressure. This 10-pack of mask extenders on Amazon come in a bunch of cute colors and designs...and can keep the cloth covering on your child's face, too.


Apply Ointment

If you don’t want to spend time fidgeting and fussing with your ear masks, you can use something to reduce the rubbing caused by behind-the-ear masks. “If ears get irritated from wearing masks, you can apply Vaseline or Aquaphor to help soothe the skin and help it to heal,” says Jamie Kim, MA, MS, PA-C, a certified dermatology physician's assistant. Just be sure to apply enough so that their ears feel smooth — and not slathered in a squishy substance.


Cure The Claustrophobia

Some kids don’t like the feeling of a face covering being so close to their face. (That’s why you’ll get that “I can’t breathe” complaint so frequently.) But there is a cure for perceived claustrophobia. “Using breathable fabrics such as cotton can help children tolerate masks better and not feel so claustrophobic,” says Kim. For extra roominess, give their mask a small stretch so that it’s not stuck to them.


Reinforce Positive Behavior

If you’ve done everything possible to make your child’s mask more comfortable and they're still not sold, try modeling positive behavior. “The main way children can assimilate to keep the masks on is by copying the behavior of their parents,” Dr. Priya R. Soni M.D., FAAP, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases, tells Romper in an email. If the mask isn’t irritating them in any physical way, perhaps seeing their parents with a positive attitude will help.


Build Up Their Tolerance

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Sure, you’ve been having your child wear their mask on and off over the summer. But if you’re planning to send your child to school in the fall, then they’re going to need to be able to wear the mask for the entire school day. So help them by doing a dry run where you both wear your masks for longer periods of time each day. Eventually, they’ll be able to tolerate the mask for longer periods of time.


Get Creative

If you’ve got a reluctant mask wearer on your hands, it might be because their mask looks too medical. After all, those basic blue ones can look like you’re in the hospital. But that’s when you can let your child channel their inner artiste and come up with a cool mask that represents them. “Have fun with it and let the kiddos decorate their masks,” says Dr. Fish. Your child might be more apt to wear a mask that they’ve made than something that was bought in a store.

Until there’s a viable vaccine or a cure for COVID-19, masks are a part of our new normal. Make sure that your child’s mask fits properly and is comfortable so that they’ll be a crusader towards helping stop the spread of the Coronavirus.


Dr. Corey Fish, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician and chief medical officer at Brave Care

Dr. Priya R. Soni M.D., FAAP, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases

Jamie Kim, MA, MS, PA-C, a certified dermatology physician assistant