Masks on Toddlers: It Ends Now


We’re now one year into this pandemic, and we have mountains of evidence on COVID and kids. Two things are clear: children are very unlikely to become infected with, become seriously ill, or suffer death from COVID-19. There is also large amounts of research available showing that young children are not significant drivers of the spread of COVID-19, including at school and at home.

Based on this evidence, it appears that there is no logical reason to subject children to adult-level mitigation and controls, particularly face-covering mandates in daycares, preschools, and schools, retail establishments, airplanes, and especially on public playgrounds.

At the very least, this practice should be seriously reevaluated, to come into alignment with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, which encourages consideration for the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers and/or medical providers.” The WHO states recommendations, which are followed worldwide except here in the United States, where the CDC makes recommendations, note that no child under age five should be put in a mask, and children aged 6-11 should be masked only under certain circumstances. This is why, when children fly on foreign airlines, they aren’t forced to mask until age six, and yet, in America, they are expected to do so from age two and up, due to guidance from the CDC.

It is time to balance any public health requirements with the medical necessity for children, as well as the impact on their overall wellbeing, psyche, and development, particularly because they lack the sovereignty to advocate for themselves. It is our duty as adults to not only protect the younger generation, but also do as much as possible to ensure they thrive.

There are real costs when it comes to masks and children. The first results of a German study of ~26,000 children and adolescents are clear on the impact of masks on kids: 68% of parents reported impairments in their children as a result of mask-wearing, including irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), decreased happiness (49%), malaise (42%), impaired learning (38%), fatigue (37%).

Writing for the Hill, a professor for special education at Towson University argued that masks for children in schools are needed or ethical. It’s worth quoting the piece at length, where she laid out a coherent argument against masking children,

It appears asymptomatic adults and, especially, children do not seem to have a substantial role in coronavirus spread. Experts have pointed out asymptomatic spread, while possible, seems uncommon in childcare settings, useful proxies for schools, particularly for younger grades. Despite sensationalized headlines on children’s viral loadmultiple reviews and contact-tracing studies have failed to find instances of children infecting teachers and a German well-publicized survey (where most states do not require student masks) hypothesized that keeping schools open slowed transmission. One recent Norwegian study estimated that, with low community transmission, 200,000 people would need to wear facemasks to prevent one new infection per week; even with the elevated transmission, the number is 70,000. These figures suggest that if Philadelphia or Washington, DC, respectively, opened their public schools, having every student wear a mask would prevent one infection (not one hospitalization or death) per week. While other studies postulate greater benefits from masks for healthy people, they are not conducted on children and typically assume high asymptomatic transmission, a finding less relevant for pediatric populations. Further, children are unlikely to wear masks with the degree of compliance found in adult studies, leading to reduced benefits.

We must also consider potential adverse outcomes; children at low risk for COVID-19 complications and transmission are also less likely to have effective coping strategies, and their brains are still developing. Thus, the debate over students wearing masks in school all day is fundamentally different from the debate over masks for adults running errands at CVS. Pediatric mask-wearing has been found to have discernible effects on fear, anxiety, and language development. The author of one review on the topic recommended limiting the populations of children required to wear masks, the duration of mask-wearing, and the settings in which masks were required — advice that most states and schools have disregarded. In one survey of Polish young adults wearing masks due to COVID-19, 97 percent perceived inconvenience or adverse effects; 35 percent of those reported difficulty breathing. Mask-wearing at longer durations can impact thermoregulation and thermal stress. A recent German study found masks to have a “negative impact on cardiopulmonary capacity…and quality of life” and recommended these effects be balanced against potential reductions in viral transmission. It’s important to remember when we consider children that adverse effects are not merely “inconveniences” but, by increasing anxiety and physical stress, can materially impact their short and long-term health, well-being, and potential for school success.

Mask-wearing can be especially challenging for students with disabilities, including sensory processing disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mental health or intellectual disabilities. The World Health Organization states that mask-wearing should “not be mandatory” for children “of any age” who have “developmental disorders, disabilities or… health conditions”.

Covering children’s faces has the potential to impede verbal and nonverbal communication and, by extension, language development, and social skills — among the very things we send children to school to learn. It is near-impossible to imagine effective phonics instruction with everyone masked, especially for a phonetic (not pictographic) language such as English, which has a highly irregular system.

And is requiring masks in schools even effective? The evidence from Florida points to no.


What can we do about it? Unfortunately, the CDC is an unelected group of bureaucrats, unaccountable to the general public. They have a history of making ridiculous recommendations, from advising four-year-olds to rear face in car seats, to abstaining from eating raw cookie dough, to telling seniors not to drive at night. But now, their overly cautious, completely unrealistic recommendations have real-life consequences for families with young children who would like to go out in public. The CDC recommendations impact children on airplanes, in schools, in stores, and everywhere else. We have to make them accountable, for the sake of our children.

I’ve decided to start contacting our elected representatives, on the local and federal level, to advocate for children, and I hope you’ll join me. This is a copy of an email I sent to my Congressional representative yesterday:

My name is Bethany Mandel and I’m a constituent living in Silver Spring, Maryland. I’m writing you today about our federal policy regarding children and masks. The CDC recommendations, which are followed by retail establishments, daycares, schools, and the feds, require children aged two and over to wear masks. There is no epidemiological reason for this, and as such, the WHO has their policy set that children five and under are not required to be in masks, and that discretion should be used in children aged 6-11.

This policy is an undue burden on families with young children. It means we cannot bring children developmentally unable to wear masks into stores or on planes; basically anywhere in public. A child with autism was recently kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight because his autism made wearing masks impossible. His father had to pay $1,000 to fly home at their own expenses. There are stories along these lines from every major airline; parents removed from flights because their children are developmentally unable to wear a mask.

I would like you to advocate for families of young children and children with special needs and ask the CDC what reasoning they have for the guidance they’ve set and why it differs so drastically from that of the WHO.

You can find the contact information for your representative here. I also encourage you to contact members of your State legislative body, as well.

A former Hill staffer tweeted me with good advice about getting your voice heard:

These are good questions, but don’t just ask them to the Staff Assistant or Intern answering the phones. They likely won’t know. Ask for the Legislative Assistant who handles the issue. Get his or her name and keep asking for them until you get answers.

This week alone, I have spoken to a number of Hill staffers in various offices willing to take this on. But they need to hear from more parents, more people who care about the well-being of families and children. I encourage you to join me in this fight for our children as the pandemic wanes. We have seen time and again that we cannot just expect pandemic restrictions to disappear because they are unjustified or not based in science, we need to fight to have them removed. For the sake of our children, this is the fight I’m taking on.


Thank you to a fellow mother, Laura Fagan, who helped compile a great deal of the language and data in this post. 

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There are 10 comments.

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  1. carcat74 Member

    Amen, sister! I forget how many incidents like you describe have occurred, but enough is enough! What about the meme going around where the child comes home with a different mask than he left with? Let kids be kids, for Pete’s sake! Too many ‘adults’ are forcing unreal requirements on children, and for  what? My private theory is ‘catch ’em while they’re young, and it’ll be much easier to control them when they get older. ‘ Another question—how are mask requirements handled in ‘special needs’ schools? Are they taped on?

    The insane are definitely trying to run the asylum, and everyone’s too scared to be REAL adults and stop it!

    • #1
  2. Buckpasser Member

    How can the state demand mandated mask wearing forever if we don’t indoctrinate them as young as possible!

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    If we were to admit (in light of about a zillion studies across the globe) that (a) kids are not at risk; (b) kids are really poor transmitters; and (c) it is unlikely as hell that small children can wear masks continuously and properly or that it makes any difference whatsoever, then we would not Be In This Together.  We might even question the one-size-fits-all-and-doesn’t-even-work nature of the policies in place.  Without a sustained but false sense of danger to The Children, we might also rethink why we did not have policies designed to protect the vulnerable rather than an utterly, predictably, and demonstrably futile attempt to control the spread everywhere.

    We hunt down people for offensive tweets a decade ago.  Why are we not firing, calling out, and ostracizing everyone who ever supported school closings and masks on kids? They did far more harm and did so in the face of lots of contemporary evidence that they were wrong and that they were causing harm.

    • #3
  4. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    For what it’s worth, some of the local school districts around me (Texas, west of Fort Worth) have made masks optional as of last week. Most seem to be keeping physical distancing and physical barriers to keep students apart from one another. 

    • #4
  5. ToryWarWriter Reagan

    I wish you were right about it being just in the USA.  But I see it here in Canada all the time.  Fortunately at least where I live, there is not cult of shaming people for not wearing masks.  Its just a very scared group of people.  And our elected leaders are pretty dumb.  I should know.  I have met most of them.

    • #5
  6. JamesSalerno Inactive

    A friend of mine said something that hit me pretty hard….

    Everyone was worried about young children wearing masks last March. How will they remember? There’s no way they will tolerate it, they’re too fussy! They will lose them, they’ll think the masks are scary, they won’t like how uncomfortable they are, etc.

    My friend said his 3 year old daughter got out of the car with him to go to the grocery store, and she put her mask on. She wasn’t asked to, no reminder needed. It’s normal for her now.

    This should never be normal.

    • #6
  7. W Bob Member
    W Bob

    The first memories of so many children will be of everyone wearing masks including themselves. I think there will be a whole new branch of psychiatry devoted to cleaning up the mess from this. 

    • #7
  8. cdor Member

    As many have pointed out, wearing masks is as much a ritualistic pandering to fear as it is a concerted effort to follow scientific evidence for increasing one’s safety against getting infected by this disease. As a society, we have allowed a very few appointed potentates to control our lives. They have been able to talk us into a perpetual state of anxiety. The problem is, these few “authorities” have an utterly myopic view. All they see are little bugs crawling and flying everywhere. These people have zero authority or proven knowledge of human behavior or even human physical health. What are the long-term effects on the human body of breathing de-oxygenated air hour after hour, day after day for years at a time? Can this be anything but harmful to adults, let alone to children? Whom among these potentates are human behavioralists? What is the effect of not being able to actually see people’s full expressions? How do children learn how to understand and relate to the needs of others? Where are these studies and who can we trust to truly weigh the good against the bad effects resulting from decisions made and forced upon us by some people of questionable wisdom? I have lived through polio epidemics and chickenpox and measles and many types of flu. Never have I seen our population become so unhinged. 

    • #8
  9. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    You mean like this?

    This is real.  I went to the state fair a few years ago, and saw an obviously Somali family (we have a large Somali community), with all of their females dressed like this, including the two toddlers.

    One more comment.  There are web sites out there which celebrate this clothing, and debate on which variation is the best.

    • #9
  10. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen

    Er, Bethany, did you leave a “not” out of the post?  

    “Writing for the Hill, a professor for special education at Towson University argued that masks for children in schools are (not) needed or ethical. It’s worth quoting the piece ……………..” 

    • #10
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