Have you heard there is danger in children wearing masks? Where did this information come from? Is it true?
JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, through its Pediatrics division, published a study that suggested that children wearing masks was dangerous. The study was enough to fuel some of the anti-mask, anti-COVID attitudes that continue to linger on in our society and needlessly spread fear among parents.
The study in question alleged that wearing face masks was dangerous for children because it increased the amount of carbon dioxide they were breathing into their lungs.
Even early on into the pandemic, there were many people who were opposed to mask wearing because they claimed it would deprive the wearer of oxygen and impede lung function.
The authors of the study found what they claimed to be dangerously high and possibly toxic carbon dioxide levels on the inner surface of masks while being worn by 45 children aged 6 to 17.
There were some serious problems with this study. First of all, the device that was used was designed to measure CO2 levels in incubators. This device had a large margin of error when used in an open setting. Concerned researchers who study exposure medicine seriously questioned whether this device was an appropriate one for this type of study.
Secondly, the study did not accurately reflect how much CO2 was actually entering into the children's lungs from the pocket of air inside the face masks. That is because the inhaled air would have been a mixture of that tiny air pocket on their faces and the ambient air around them. This would have led to very low levels of CO2.
The study was retracted fairly quickly but the problem with retractions is that the studies will still be used by people who oppose vaccines, mask use or any of the pandemic measures that have been put in place. These people have the tendency to continue to quote faulty research long after it has been contradicted by newer data.
The moral of the story is that just because a study is published, even in a respected journal, one should not jump to conclusions or listen to naysayers without following the information through to see if it has been carefully reviewed and/or retracted.
There is so much misinformation from the internet, the media, and from social media, that fact-checking all new information is now an extremely important necessity in order to learn the real truth.
Returning to in person learning is very important for our nation's children. We have seen the negative impact, especially emotionally, that our children have received from not attending school in person. Virtual learning, attending school online, has produced in many children a lack of motivation and serious feelings of isolation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that universal masking of children when they return to school in person is necessary, since most of the student population is not yet vaccinated. There are good reasons for universal masking of children:
The AAP has also suggested that schools also keep desks at least three feet apart and teachers should be assigned to smaller class sizes wherever possible. Until all children can be protected by one of the COVID vaccines, it may be prudent to recommend that children wear masks in any public places as well as in schools.
Children under 5 years old should not be made to wear masks since they may not have the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance. Should a situation require a child under 5 years old to wear a mask (such as being close to someone who is ill, etc.), a parent or guardian should be there to supervise the safe use of the mask.
Children with underlying health conditions should wear a medical mask to provide them the protection they need for their particular health condition and to prevent transmission to others. The wearing of masks by anyone with a health condition should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Please Note: Some information from the McGill Office for Science and Society was used by permission for this article.