Health expert recommends surgical masks for kids at school

BOSTON — Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts public school students are set to return to the classroom this week as COVID-19 infection rates surge.

Amid the omicron surge there is understandably some anxiety among parents.

Superintendents across the state have said keeping classrooms open is a priority in 2022.

Weekly testing, an emphasis on the vaccine for kids five and older and mask mandates are part of each district’s back-to-school plans.

Boston 25 News spoke with a health expert who said the type of mask your child wears may reduce their risk of getting COVID.

“The best advice now given the transmissibility of Omicron is to probably forgo the cloth masks. Leave them alone. Do not use them anymore,” said Dr. Rick Malley with the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Malley, who’s a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said N95 and KN95 masks are some of the most effective at blocking viral particles.

However, he said surgical masks are more realistic for children to wear.

“That is probably the most comfortable and the least troublesome in terms of making sure that the child isn’t always pulling it off their nose,” explained Dr. Malley.

According to health experts, the Omicron variant spreads at least three times faster than delta.

“The amount of virus that lands on your nose doesn’t have to be quite as high as it was with other variants,” he added. “We have to make sure that the masks they are wearing are a little closer fitting than some of the cloth masks that we’ve all been wearing for the last couple of years.”

Dr. Malley points out that the risk of severe illness to children remains extremely low, especially if vaccinated.

He said if a cloth mask is the only thing you can get your child to wear – it’s still better than no mask at all.

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