Amy Young: The harmful effects of masks on children should not be ignored |

Amy Young: The harmful effects of masks on children should not be ignored

After observing many children wearing masks, as a local mom I will advocate for their well-being by making a few crucial points that are being ignored at the peril of the children we are trying to protect. Most kids cannot use a mask properly (i.e., sealed around the edges and tight over the nose, and without touching).

Kids (and most adults) touch their masks constantly, thereby contaminating them with bacteria and other viruses, many of which can be more harmful to children than COVID-19. Kids also drop masks on the ground and then put them back on their faces. Touching a mask places whatever bacteria or virus is on one’s hand directly on to the mask surface, where it sits all day.

Now, by God’s grace, COVID-19 has proven to spare most children from any severe illness. Yet, the same cannot be said for bacteria such as E. coli, staph, or strep. And the flu virus is very hard on children. During the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, 358 pediatric flu deaths occurred in that year alone (per the CDC). Yet as of Oct. 21, 108 kids aged 0 to 17 have died with the virus (less than 0.1% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths). Most kids do not even have symptoms from COVID-19, nor need to be hospitalized.

Another deleterious health effect is due to the increased amount of bacteria and fungi that masks retain in the mouth. While the pore size of N95 masks (the gold standard for masks) is as low as 0.30 micrometers, the size of the COVID-19 virus is less than half of that, at .12 micrometers (and smaller). Bacteria and fungi are much larger, so microbes that should be exhaled are retained. A phenomenon is surfacing some dentists are calling “mask mouth,” characterized by receding gums, halitosis, and cavities.

Masks are dehumanizing. They erase our facial expressions and discourage communication. Children need to see what adults and other kids are feeling. Part of socialization comes from reading and interpreting the facial expressions of others. On the simplest level, kids need to see smiles. They cannot be reassured enough that there is joy in our everyday lives. Don’t believe me? Try depriving a child in your life of joy today.

On a more academic level, how can children in a regular classroom learn speech nuances and letter sounds without being able to observe the movement of lips and emotion in the face? Depriving kids of these critical facial expressions and enriching conversation on a regular basis is an injustice that we will pay for.

Masks are encouraging our children to live in a constant state of fear. Let’s ponder what their thoughts are on a daily basis: “I can’t breathe this air, it will make me sick or kill me,” “I’m going to get in trouble for not having a mask on,” “I hate this thing but adults are making me put it over my face” are thoughts that have probably gone though many of our kids’ heads.

Children must come first. When it comes to kids, masks are bad for the mind, body, and spirit. Let adults protect themselves as they see fit and let parents decide whether a mask is appropriate for their children.

Amy Young lives in Penn Valley.

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