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Fact check: Health authorities advise that babies and very young children should not wear face masks

An image of a newborn baby wearing a face mask has been shared on social media with the apparent suggestion that this is in line with current advice. This is false. The Chief Nurse at Public Health England has said that children under three should not wear face coverings as they may lead to choking and suffocation.

A person carrying protective face masks walks down the street as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Vienna, Austria September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Posts containing the image (here , here , here ) have been shared hundreds of times. The picture shows an infant with a face mask under the caption: “2019: Back is best, fitted sheet only, no stuffed animals in crib to reduce SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) risk. 2020:” It implies that the use of face masks on babies is in line with recommendations.

This claim contradicts advice published by health authorities. Children under the age of five are not required to face masks, the World Health Organization says (here) . In specific circumstances, it says, there may be a need for a child under five to wear a face covering, but they should always be directly supervised to ensure safe use.

In England, children under 11 are exempt from wearing face coverings in public. Public Health England does not recommend them for children under three for health and safety reasons (here) .

On July 23, 2020, the Chief Nurse at Public Health England (PHE), Professor Viv Bennett made a statement warning against the use of face coverings for babies and young children (here) .

“PHE has been made aware that face coverings for babies and very young children are available for sale in England. Guidance is clear that children under the age of three years should not wear face coverings or masks, these masks should not be used as they are potentially dangerous and can cause choking and suffocation,” she said.

“If you or your child is unwell with the symptoms of COVID-19, then you should get a test and stay at home until you get the result. If you are worried then you should call 111 or speak to your doctor.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that only those above the age of two must wear a mask (here) .

VERDICT

False. Parents are not advised to put masks on babies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Health authorities have warned that the use of masks on infants and young children may be dangerous.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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