Purpose of the document
This document provides guidance to decision makers, public and child health professionals to inform policy on the use of masks for children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not address the use of masks for adults working with children or parents/guardians or the use of masks for children in health-care settings. This interim guidance will be revised and updated as new evidence emerges.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) advise the use of masks according to a risk-based approach, as part of a comprehensive package of public health interventions that can prevent and control the transmission of certain viral respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Compliance with other measures including physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and adequate ventilation in indoor settings is essential for reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
This guidance provides specific considerations for the use of non-medical masks, also known as fabric masks, by children as a means for source control in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The document is an annex to the WHO’s Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 in which further details on fabric masks can be found. This annex also advises the use of medical masks for children under certain conditions. For the purposes of this guidance, children are defined as anyone below the age of 18 years.
Methodology for developing the guidance
The World Health Organization (WHO) Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Guidance Development Group (GDG) and experts from UNICEF and the International Paediatric Association (IPA) jointly reviewed the available evidence to develop guidance on the use of masks for children in the context of the current pandemic. Five international expert meetings were held between June and August 2020. In the absence of strong scientific evidence, consensus among these groups forms the main basis for this guidance. Furthermore, the draft guidance was reviewed by a multidisciplinary group of additional external experts prior to finalization.