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School in the Upstate has commenced and while some students are going the virtual route, others are braving the face to face option with masks aplenty. If you are a parent who has little ones younger than school age, you may be wondering how to keep them safe if they are too tiny to wear a mask or have not started. 

Dr. Ashley Flesher of Pediatric Associates Powdersville answered a few questions and gave some pointers to keep the under 5s safe. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under the age of 2 years should not wear cloth face coverings.

·               Keep all trips as short as possible, staying home if at all possible. Wash your hands as soon as you return home or use hand sanitizer. We keep some in the car and do both just in case.

·               For children that are interested or old enough to try wearing a mask, Flesher says, “Get masks for children that they will enjoy to wear – their favorite color, character or sports team. The mask should comfortably cover the nose and mouth. Some children may prefer to have ties instead of ear straps.” If your child likes comic book characters, child friendly masks are available at Borderlands Comics and Games. Toddlers can wear them if they practice.

·               If you are trying to teach your young one to wear a mask, “Let children put a mask on their favorite doll or stuffed animal to make them more comfortable. Also give them a choice of which of their masks they want to wear. Children love to make choices, just do not let the choice be no mask.”

·               For babies still in car seats, a simple blanket over the carrier when on an outing is sufficient to provide a layer of protection. Make sure it stays firmly in place and blocks their mouth and nose from coughs and sneezes.

“The goal with masks is to contain small droplets that come from your mouth and nose when you talk, cough or sneeze,” Flesher said. “A fabric mask does a great job of this.” 

And it allows your child to normalize the idea of wearing a mask.

For children in daycare, parents need to review the policies to make sure attendants are properly washing, sanitizing and wearing masks. While young children are not inclined to physically distance, a good program has already thought through how to keep children 6 feet apart and still playing happily.

If yours is a homeschool family, having one or two other families to create a safe bubble with might be the answer to keeping social relations as normal as possible while still being vigilant about health and safety.

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