Should kids mask up again? What experts say about taking precautions during RSV, flu scares

Rising cases of RSV and flu are causing parents to wonder if their kids should wear masks again.  (Photo: Getty Creative)

Rising cases of RSV and flu are causing parents to wonder if their kids should wear masks again. (Photo: Getty Creative)

For the past few years, COVID-19 has been a major concern as we enter winter. But now, there’s a so-called triple disease circulating – and cases are piling up.

Currently, flu cases are starting to rise in the US, with 9% of virus tests being positive for the flu, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also notes that currently 4.3% of visits to healthcare professionals are for a respiratory illness that is “above baseline.”

At the same time, COVID-19 cases are accelerating again, according to CDC data. Yet that is not all. Cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are increasing rapidly. According to the CDC, 18.2 percent of tests for RSV have recently been positive, and there is a chart that tracks cases nationwide, showing an almost vertical climb over the past few weeks.

Reports of schools closing due to flu, RSV and COVID outbreaks indicate that respiratory viruses are poised to bring some chaos this season. With all that said, it’s understandable that you have questions about whether you should wear a mask again to protect your child against respiratory illness.

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Central California pediatrician, children’s book author, and mother of two, Dr. Betty Choi tells Yahoo Life that she has had her 6- and 9-year-olds wear masks again, after having previously allowed them to go unmasked on small vacations. meetings.

“Wearing a mask is a normal and simple public health strategy in many countries long before the COVID-19 pandemic. We were inspired to adopt this practice as a family,” explains Choi. Choi says her family wears masks to “minimize the spread of contagious infections” and says she also strives to maintain consistent childcare.

“We don’t have backup childcare and school days missed negatively affect parents’ work and other responsibilities,” Choi says.

Entrepreneur Lionel Mora tells Yahoo Life that he decided to have his 5-year-old daughter wear a mask again. “Now that everyone is gathering normally, we’re seeing a lot of disease spreading,” he says. “Everyone’s immune systems seem a little too sensitive to be indoors and in isolation for long periods of time.”

Mora says her daughter’s wearing a mask is a way to “put her back on” in crowded settings like school, where children are spreading germs again, to protect her from all ills and allow her to attend safely.

An infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. William Schaffner tells Yahoo Life that it’s “a pretty reasonable idea” for parents to re-mask their kids. “We learned through COVID that masks do indeed provide an additional layer of protection,” he says. “We predicted that people of all ages interested in protecting themselves would do that.”

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D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Buffalo in New York. Marc Hicar tells Yahoo Life that this is “completely reasonable,” especially if you have family members who are immunocompromised, or if your child is struggling with the flu or RSV. in the past.

He adds a caveat, though: “These infections are difficult to avoid as they spread through the community, and a child’s perfect mask use can be a difficult question.” Hicar also points out that while the CDC has guidance on masking to prevent the spread of flu, there is no official recommendation for people with the flu. not Infected to mask when flu community spread is high.

D., a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. Ashanti Woods tells Yahoo Life that masking to avoid RSV can also be difficult. “Since the RSV chooses young children and infants the most, it can be difficult to suggest that masks will have a significant impact, as masks may not fit properly and may not be recommended for those younger than 2 years old,” he says.

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To protect yourself and your family members, Schaffner recommends vaccinating everyone against flu and COVID-19. (Unfortunately, there is no vaccine yet for RSV – but it’s under construction.) “Then, consider wearing a mask when in public situations,” he adds.

Hicar says hand hygiene is also important to prevent the spread of RSV. “Most data suggest that RSV is spread through contact with secretions, so hand hygiene may be more effective than these interventions,” he says.

If you know you can’t always mask, but in some cases you can, Woods recommends monitoring the levels of respiratory viruses in your area and masking accordingly. “Personally, I am in favor of seasonal masking when the burden of disease is high, given respiratory failure and a local intensive care unit having no place to care for the child,” he says.

Schaffner says he doesn’t expect most people to embrace remasking, but he predicts some will. “There is a section of the population that has taken preventive measures and is now more health-conscious,” he says. “They will wear masks when flu, COVID and RSV are high in their community. That makes sense.”

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