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Wearing A Face Covering or Mask

Lockdown is becoming less strict and we are all beginning be able to go out and about a bit more. There has been a lot of discussion about whether we should be wearing face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus.

The most important ways of reducing the spread of coronavirus are;

  • Regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds using soap and water.
  • Keeping at least 1 metre from people you do not live with where possible.
  • Catch it, bin it, kill it for coughs and sneezes.

Face coverings and masks offer more protection to other people rather than to the person wearing them. This is because people may be carrying the virus without knowing and spread COVID-19 to others. Protecting others in this way reduces the virus being passed around and this benefits everyone.

Please remember that if you have COVID-19 symptoms you should self isolate and get a test. Covering your face is not good enough protection for others if you have symptoms.

 The government have now said that face coverings MUST be used in some situations;

  • When using public transport.
  • When visiting a hospital.
  • When visiting enclosed public places including shops, services and visitor attractions.

It is also a good idea to wear a mask in other enclosed places where you cannot socially distance and will come into contact with people outside your household.

Remember babies and children under three should never wear a mask.

  • Babies and children under three should never wear a mask.

    • There is a risk of them ‘re-breathing’ too much carbon dioxide from the air they breathe out.
    • They can overheat easily and this can increase the risk of SIDs.
    • They might get tangled in the mask and this is a strangulation risk.

    You may see 'baby masks' for sale - these are not safe and should not be used.

    Children aged 11 and under do not need to wear a mask.

    You don’t need to wear a mask;

    • In your own home.
    • Outdoors whilst playing, exercising or spending time in an open space.
    • In nurseries or primary schools.
    • In secondary schools and colleges. 
    • In the place where you work.

    There are some exemptions for pre-existing conditions that mean wearing a face covering is difficult, these include;

    • Conditions that affect breathing if face covering makes the symptoms worse.
    • A learning disability / autism if wearing a face covering causes distress or they are not able to wear safely.
    • If a hearing impaired person relies on lip reading, they and their companion are exempt.
    • Any other health condition or disability that is made worse by using a face covering.

    If you or a family member cannot wear a face covering for health reasons you should not feel uncomfortable about it. Most people will be able to wear a covering and this will help reduce the spread of the virus.

    There are some downloadable cards to print off to show or wear to explain why you are exempt *here*.

  • Face coverings do not need to be the same as the masks used in hospitals. These have been in short supply and should only be used by people working in higher risk situations. You can buy, make or adapt face coverings that will work well to stop germs escaping.

    Masks need to fit well to be most effective. If you are buying ready made look for ‘child sized’ ones to get the best fit for your children.

    You can use a mask, scarf, bandana or ‘snood’ (a tube shaped piece of stretchy fabric).


  • Children might feel a bit worried about seeing other people in masks to begin with or using one themselves if they are old enough.

    Give them an explanation that suits their age. If they are older you can look at information on the internet together. *Click here* for ideas. 

    For young children keep it simple;

    ‘There is a germ around called a coronavirus - we are wearing masks to help stop the bug being passed around and making people poorly’.

    They might be unsure at first. Help them get used to the idea they will be seeing them on more people out and about by;

    • Putting a face covering on yourself. Keep talking and smiling behind the mask. You could play peek-a-boo with small children so they know you are ‘still there’.
    • Getting other family members to show them their face coverings on video calls.
    • Putting a face covering on their teddy. 
    • Drawing face coverings on pictures of favourite cartoon and book characters.

    Some children may find a social story helpful - *click here* for a children's story about seeing other people wearing masks.

    Make sure you have lots of time with your baby / little children where you are mask free. Your child learns a lot about emotions and language by watching your mouth and face movements. It is important for their development.

  • Putting a mask on

    To make sure that a mask offers the best protection you need to help / show your child how to put it on and take it off with care;

    • Wash your hands first.
    • Put the cloth face covering securely over the nose and mouth. It must cover both to work.
    • Stretch it from ear to ear. Check for any gaps and adjust to minimise them.
    • Hook behind ears / tie in place.
    • Remind your child not to touch it once it's on their face.


    You should leave it in place when out and about until you get where you are going.

    Do not;

    • Push the covering down onto the neck or up onto the forehead.
    • Try to eat or drink whilst wearing a face covering.
    • Share your face covering with someone else.

    If the mask becomes damp from breath it needs changing.

    Taking a mask off

    • Don’t touch the part that has covered the face.
    • Don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth as you take it off.
    • Put straight in the bin if disposable.
    • Put straight in the washing machine if reusable. Or in a plastic bag until you can. Cloth face coverings need to be washed after every use.
    • Wash your hands before you touch or do anything else.

    Check masks and face coverings for any signs of wear and tear, and replace them regularly.

    Masks are not as good at stopping the spread of the virus as social distancing and hand washing. Remind your child they should still keep 2 metres away from people they do not live with as much as they can. Remind them / help them to wash their hands regularly, for at least 20 seconds.

  • Face mask use makes it more difficult for those who rely on lip reading and watching facial expressions because of hearing loss.

    The National Deaf Children’s Society has information to help with this and some ways to make masks with clear panels that allow lip reading *here*.

Making Masks or Face Coverings

You may decide to buy a ready made face mask online. Ask friends and family if they have any recommendations of companies they have used.

You could use scarves / bandannas / snoods you already own. Make sure they are not too thick to breathe through easily.

You might decide to make one. Take a look at 'How To' guides below. Your child might enjoy helping you.

  • You will need

    • A clean sock. The different sizes will help you get a good close fit too!
    • Scissors

    How to make

    • Hold a single sock upside down.
    • Cut half of the foot section off.
    • Make the space from the heel to both ends of the sock the same length.
    • Cut it open down the middle opposite the heel.
    • Fold it open flat with the heel area in the centre.
    • Make two incisions two cm from both sides Use the slits to clip the mask around your ears.

    How to use

    • Fit snugly over mouth and nose. Use the 2 side slits to hook over your ears.
    • Wash after every use.
    • If it gets loose and baggy throw away and start again.
  • You can use material, bandanas or a t-shirt to make a ‘no sew’ face covering.

    The fabric you use does make a difference to how well your face covering will work. ‘Tight weave’ cotton works well – whatever you use hold it up to the light and the less you can ‘see’ through the material the better.

    You will need

    • Bandana, old t-shirt, or square cotton cloth (cut to 50 x 50cms).
    • Rubber bands (or hair ties).
    • Kitchen roll or coffee filter paper (optional).
    • Scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth).

    How to make

    1. Fold the fabric in half.
    2. Lay a filter paper or folded piece of kitchen roll in the centre if using. Then fold the top down and bottom up.
    3. Place elastic bands / hair ties about 6 inches apart - you might need to tweak the size to fit the wearer.
    4. Fold the two ends over and tuck them into each other.
    5. Fit snugly over your mouth and nose then hook over your ears. 
    6. Your mask is ready!

    Wash it and replace the filter paper (if used) after every use.

  • You might like to sew a mask – by hand or sewing machine if you have one. The fabric you use does make a difference to how well your face covering will work . ‘tight weave’ cotton works well – whatever you use hold it up to the light – the less you can ‘see’ through the material the better.

    You will need;

    • 2 x rectangles of materials (25 x 15cms)
    • Needle and thread / sewing machine
    • 2 x pieces of elastic (15cms each)
    • Kitchen roll

    How to make;

    • Put fabric pieces on top of each other lengthwise.
    • Fold over the top longest sides of the fabric – about half a centimetre and sew all the way across.
    • Separate out (the now joined) two pieces of fabric. Fold inwards 2.5 cm strip on each side and sew. (This will make a pocket for the ‘filtering paper’).
    • Fold a 1 cm strip along each short side – this should be enough space to thread through the elastic.
    • Put the kitchen roll into the pocket you have made.

    How to wear;

    • Pull the elastic until it gathers.
    • Put mask on. Make sure it fits snugly over mouth and nose. Adjust the elastic over your ears and tie a knot.

    Wash it and replace the filter paper (if used) after every use.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 

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