😷 Reminder: Masks can be worn safely by most children. There are very few reasons for children to be exempt from wearing a mask in school.
😶🌫️ There is a lot of confusion around who can qualify for a medical exemption from a mask, especially as children are getting back to school. Many hospitals and pediatric offices have simply stated that they will not write letters for mask exemption. So, how can someone tell if their child really qualifies for a mask exemption?
🙋 The simple answer: Children under two, children who cannot easily take on/off a mask, children who cannot maintain a good and clean mask, and children with injuries or anatomical differences of the head/neck/throat that make mask wearing dangerous. All other children should wear a mask at school, in indoor settings, in crowded outdoor settings, and when in close proximity to others.
Children who likely DO NOT qualify for a medical exemption include:
❌ Children with allergies
❌ Children with anxiety
❌ Children with asthma
❌ Children with cardiac (heart) conditions
❌ Children with neurological (brain) conditions
❌ Children with blood disorders or cancer
❌ Children with lung conditions
❌ Children with communication differences
⚠️ Please note that if a child is having difficulty breathing (such as during an asthma flare), the mask should be removed. But the presence of asthma alone does not qualify a child for a medical exemption to mask wearing in school. Children with anxiety can gradually learn to tolerate a mask. And for children with communication differences, masks with clear pieces may help to improve communication and allow the child to remain in person in person in school. Of course, specific issues relevant to these conditions should be discussed individually with the child’s pediatrician or clinician.
Children who MAY qualify for a medical exemption include:
✅ Children with structural differences of the head, neck, ears, or throat
✅ Children with developmental differences
✅ Children with limited physical mobility
⛔ It is important to know that these conditions do not absolutely qualify a child for a mask exemption. Specific concerns and issues should ALWAYS be discussed with a child’s pediatrician or clinician.
For example, in the case of developmental differences, some children can slowly be introduced to masks in order to learn to tolerate them. Some children may have difficulty wearing a mask and/or have agitation with mask wearing. It is also important to note that any child who cannot wear a mask properly and/or cannot keep the mask clean/dry is likely not able to wear a mask. In such situations, virtual learning may be considered if appropriate for the child’s learning needs.
❗ Children under two and people who cannot safely remove a mask should not wear masks. The people around them should wear masks and take other measures to protect them (Think Space, Mask, Air, Restrict, Time, Shots #SMARTS!).
➡️ Very few children qualify for mask exemptions. It is important to follow appropriate guidance to keep our children, teachers, and staff safe while in school.
Stay Safe. Stay Sane.
Those Nerdy Girls
Note: Thank you to one of our followers in Pennsylvania, a teacher, who asked this question after noticing that many of her students had medical exemptions from masks.
Education Week Discussion on Mask Exemptions
Healthy Children Mask Myth-busters
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidance on masks
University of Vermont good summary with AAP local input
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