How many masks does my child need to bring to school?
Our original thought was that one reusable mask can be used for school. But then started thinking - what if they drop it, and then step on it? What if lunch ends up on it? What if they sneeze? What if they can't stop chewing on it and it is a slobbery mess after just an hour at school? What if they are sweaty in it? What if they are shooting it like rubber band guns across the playground or parking lot and it falls in the dirt or mud? And, do I want to do laundry every. single. day??
Just how many masks does one child need?
After thinking of all the ways our children spill things in a day, I thought back to the days of onesies - and let's face it, one just did NOT do it!
We are suggesting two before lunch and two after lunch (four each day to be used as needed) so each person can have a fresh cloth against their face as often as possible. And depending on how often you want to do laundry, we recommend buying more than one day's worth. A pack of 12 could last you three days before having to do laundry (just to leave the house).
How do we keep them clean?
Teaching kids how to keep masks clean is another adventure. And ideally, it is something you practice before sending them to school, daycare, or other offsite location by themselves.
It can be as simple as a clear plastic storage bag labeled *CLEAN* and another one labeled DIRTY! Masks should be stored in a way that you can easily pull ONE out without touching ALL of them. Ideally, you are able to grab the ear loop and never touch the fabric front when putting the mask on. This is definitely worth some practice time at home (in a clean area, where if it falls, you don't have to wash it right away).
What do I do with dirty masks?
Back to the clear bag marked DIRTY - it needs to be easy to put a muddy or snot filled mask in the bag (think about the most disgusting sneeze ever - you need a way to touch it as little as possible). Do not forget to clean out your DIRTY bag daily so other fun science experiments do not add to your mask debacle (think about that lunch you forgot to unpack after we were all quarantined in March - finding it a week later didn't make snack time easier!)
How often should they be washed?
Masks are reportedly less effective when moist (see information in link from CDC below) - claiming germs cling to moisture. If you have spoken, perspired, or have visible damp areas near your mouth or nose, it is time to change. Replace often.
Wash in warm or hot and dry mask on high heat to help kill germs in the fabric. The elastic will not last as long, but the mask will be cleaner.
Are masks safe?
This is a topic for the experts to debate; and we are not experts in this category. There is a medical study (pre-covid) that shows that prolonged use of fabric vs. medical grade masks can lead to increased respiratory infections (so use caution). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420971/
But in an effort to reopen society, mask mandates have become this year's discussion, hoping that by covering your mouth and nose, you are less likely to spread germs. See guidance on cloth and medical masks from the CDC: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-0948_article
If you have a health condition where reducing or blocking your airflow puts you at risk of a different condition, you should consult your physician before leaving the house, and work with them to identify if, when, and under what conditions you wear a mask.
When possible, keep your distance from others and you are better positioned to ward off all kinds of things, including needless small talk!