Friday, August 20, 2021 – One school essential for kids this fall is a face mask – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics both advise use them – but finding one that is truly protective for a child is not a simple task, as many parents can attest.

There are few official guidelines or studies to provide evidence-based recommendations about the best mask for children.

Search for children’s masks on Amazon and you’ll come across tons of options: masks with three, four, or five layers, different designs, and different materials. There is a company that sells a mask that they call the m95 model, a term the company came up with.

It’s almost impossible to verify many of the manufacturers’ claims or to know if they will fit your child’s face until you order some, which can be expensive.

But it’s worth looking for a good mask. A large study of more than 1 million people conducted online by Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University found that students who wear masks at school have a reduced risk of testing positive for the virus and becoming ill with COVID symptoms. The study was published in June in the journal Science.

Delta More infectious

The Delta variant of the new coronavirus is much more contagious than previous versions of the virus. Studies have shown that people have 1,000 times more viral infections in their noses and throats than those circulating during last winter and spring. They release more viral particles into the air when they talk, scream or sing, making the virus that causes COVID-19 much more contagious than before.

That means Kimberly Prather, PhD, an aerosol scientist and distinguished professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, is if it only takes about 15 minutes to be around an infected person. to infect, the window of risk is now much shorter.

“If you believe in the magic number of 15 minutes, now if you load 1000 times the viral load, then basically in 1 second you can inhale that amount of virus. So it goes away. from 15 minutes down to 1 second,” Prather said in an online interview at a school safety seminar she helped organize.

Better mask

That means we need to upgrade our respirators, switch to inappropriate cloth masks, which can provide different levels of protection depending on the number of layers and the type of fabric used, to Surgical masks offer greater or better protection, however, the N95 respirator, which provides the highest level of filtration.

That’s harder to do for kids with much smaller faces.

Any mask with holes around the edges won’t perform well, no matter how well it filters.

“N95s aren’t made to fit children,” said Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech who tests masks in her lab. I do not recommend N95 for children”.

Marr says that parents need to consider attribute masks in the following order of preference:

  1. Appease: “If your kid doesn’t wear it, it doesn’t help at all,” she says.
  2. Fit: “Leaking around the edges is like having a hole in your mask and aerosols carrying the virus can get through,” says Marr.
  3. Filter: How good is the mask at blocking small particles

One option to improve the fit is to place a cloth mask over a surgical mask. Cloth masks help hold the edges of a surgical mask tighter to a person’s face. Surgical masks create better filtration.

Marr said KF94 or KN95 masks being made in Korea and China are good options. They provide almost the same level of filtration as the N95 and they fit snugly against the face to minimize leaks.

Check for fakes

Children’s KF94 and KN95 masks are widely available, but Marr said parents need to be on the lookout for fakes, which don’t work well.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides examples of counterfeit products here.

There is also a cloth mask with an integrated edge-to-edge filter for children.

“Some of these filter out more than 99% of particles, and they can be very effective, if they fit well,” says Marr.

Marr has compiled and publicly posted a list of her recommendations for face masks for children.

There is also a new voluntary standard for masks. It’s called ASTM F3502-21, and it’s published by an international organization that sets voluntary standards for thousands of products. To confirm that a mask meets this standard, the manufacturer must test the mask and demonstrate that the mask provides a certain level of filtration and breathability.

However, not everyone agrees that this standard is exhaustive.

“It’s pretty useless. The maximum category is 50% filter efficiency,” said Aaron Collins, who calls himself @masknerd on Twitter. “That might have been OK for the original coronavirus but ‘now that we’re talking about Alpha and Delta on top of that, it doesn’t even apply anymore,'” he said. “We’ve surpassed that standard.”

Collins is a mechanical engineer in Minneapolis, MN with aerosol expertise who began testing masks last year as a way to find a good protective mask for yourself. The project soon developed. Now, he’s posted his test results and debunks common myths about masks (yes, if you can smell it, it’s still protective. The smell is vapor, not particulate, he explains) on Youtube.

He stopped his testing over the summer but said parents hunted him down with questions about masks for kids, so he started testing them again. He has a 5 year old son.

“We have a big problem here in the US, and that’s there’s no universal population standard for masks,” Collins said. “Now we have this problem, which is we need better kids with masks, and we don’t have any standards,” he said.

NIOSH sets standards for occupational masks, like N95. But their standards do not apply to those who need them for general use. Collins said that the FDA will likely set such a standard and, more importantly, enforce it.

Based on his testing, he recommends that parents try to find the KF94 mask, from South Korea. He says their performance is close to that of the N95, and he sees fewer instances of counterfeits with these masks. If the KF94s are sold out as usual, he recommends looking to buy a KN95 mask from one of the companies that already have an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for healthcare workers. That EUA was withdrawn due to an increased supply of N95 masks, but he said the masks on that list were more reliable.

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