For three years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued complicated—and occasionally contradictory—guidance on when you should wear a mask, depending on whether you’re inside, outside, vaccinated, or not vaccinated. But no matter how cautious you are, if you’re a parent, there is one significant way you’re probably getting sick: Your kid is now in school.
This summer brought an uptick in cases, due to a number of factors—whether that was wildfire smoke that may affect the immune system or waning immunity from vaccinations. Ventilation and vaccination remain key tools in combating the spread, and so is a good mask. Unvaccinated children 2 years old and above should wear face masks in public spaces. If your kids are back in school or if you’re planning to travel this fall, you should probably refresh your mask stash.
I have a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old in elementary school, and we still wear masks if we have the sniffles or if we’re traveling. The CDC still notes that N95 masks offer the best protection. However, these masks have not been tested for broad use on smaller children, and as I noted in my Best Face Masks for Adults guide, the ideal mask is the one that fits well and that your kid will wear.
If you’re looking for ideas to entertain your small (or not-so-small) kids when they’re sick or quarantining, check out our guides to entertaining preschoolers during quarantine and how to set up a virtual workspace for your kids.
Updated September 2023: We added the latest coronavirus pandemic information, updated information for several masks, removed older cloth mask picks, and updated links and pricing.
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