Inside Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, they’re starting to see encouraging signs following the latest wave of COVID-19 infections.
“We’ve seen a significant decrease in our hospitalization rates, visits to our emergency room, positive tests that we’re seeing at our emergency departments and our urgent care centers,” said Dr. Marcos Mestre, Chief Medical Officer for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Still, Dr. Mestre says low vaccination rates among young children are a big reason for kids to keep masking up, especially indoors.
“Unfortunately, in children between 5 and 11 years old, we haven’t seen the uptick in vaccines as much as we would like,” he said. “Only about 30% of those in the country have received one dose and only about 20% have received two doses.”
Eric Plotkin’s son was vaccinated in November.
“So we’re very thankful for that,” he said.
But his 9-year-old son keeps wearing masks, usually KN95s Eric buys from a company he found after doing extensive research.
“They were around before the pandemic, so I’m satisfied they’re not some fly-by-night operation selling junk,” Eric said.
For Tina Wickenden, finding masks for her 3- and 5-year-old children can be challenging.
“There’s a lot of vendors online that sell things but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re authentic or real or protective,” she said.
N95s offer the greatest protection, but they don’t have ear loops and may not be the best option for children, Dr. Mestre said.
“Most times it’s not practical for them to wear it for prolonged periods of time because they are somewhat difficult to breathe through,” he said.
KN95s might be a better option, he said. They are made in China and there is typically labeling on the mask you should look for.
“You’ll see a KN95 label and also the brand name,” he said.
Dr. Mestre said you probably want to avoid buying a KN95 for your child that doesn’t have those features. You should also avoid ones that say they are approved by the FDA, since the US does not regulate KN95s.
KF94s also come in kid-friendly sizes.
“And also provide a bit higher grade of protection as compared to just a regular surgical mask,” he said.
KF94s are always made in Korea, so watch out for versions made in other countries.
A surgical mask is another option worth considering for a child, Dr. Mestre said.
“It provides a good level of protection,” he said, adding that you want to make sure it says it is for medical use.
As for the masks you may get for free at so many places, Dr. Mestre recommends double-masking – either using two of the same mask or combining one with a cloth mask.
The FDA does not have a list of counterfeit or fraudulent COVID-19 products, but you can report them by sending an email to: FDA-COVID-19-Fraudulent-Products@fda.hhs.gov
The CDC does post a list of counterfeit masks and ways you can spot a fake one. You can read more about it by clicking here.