Seattle Children’s pediatrician knows it’s ‘challenging’ to get young kids to mask up

Jan 24, 2022, 10:25 AM
Vivienne Wong, 5, sits in the lap of her mother, Crystal Wong, as she prepares to receive a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from firefighter Luke Lindgren on Nov. 3, 2021 in Shoreline, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

A lot of parents of young kids are feeling left behind at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, as the rest of the nation tries to return to normal.

Washington households can order at-home rapid COVID tests at no cost

Children under age 5 are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19. Plus, while at-home testing kits were recently made available to order from both the U.S. government and from Washington state, those tests results won’t count for kids to return to school in most places.

In light of that, and as the pandemic continues, Dr. Mollie Greves Grow, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s, joined Seattle’s Morning News with some advice for parents and kids.

KIRO Newsradio host Colleen O’Brien shared that the mask requirement at her daughter’s day care had been for children ages 5 and up, but that has since been dropped to age 3. Her daughter is 2.5 and doesn’t like to wear a mask.

“I think it’s just really important to acknowledge it is hard,” Greves Grow said to start. “It’s not an easy process. It is challenging to get kids to be on board at all time with the masking.”

She did offer a few suggestions, and says she hopes something will resonate for parents.

“For kids at this age, certainly, we want to harness their kind of helper instinct, as I call it. That they do want to be helpful, and we can help them to channel that into appropriate ways. We can get them to be a little bit more compliant with mask wearing,” she said. “They really see themselves as becoming older at that age, and so if we kind of show that this is something that older kids do, and that they’re being the responsible older kids that are helping by helping decrease the spread of COVID, that can help them be a little bit more likely to be on board with masks.”

“Another piece of this is that kids of that age are also wanting more autonomy and choice,” she continued. “So the extent that we can make options available for the types of masks, the color, the characters, the things that help them feel a little bit more interested in the type of mask that they are being asked to wear. And certainly comfort and fit is a part of that too.”

Finally, Greves Grow says it’s good to call out when we see them wearing masks and doing it right, recognizing them for that and being appreciative.

“Just trying to make sure that we are, honestly, seeing them as the people that we’re asking them to be, and that it’s hard to do so we want to thank them for that,” she advised.

As far as what the risk to a young child is when it comes to COVID, Greves Grow says that thankfully omicron is not proving to be more serious than other variants, though it does spread faster.

“It is more of an upper respiratory infection for most people than it is a lower respiratory infection that can get into the lungs and cause the serious lung complications and pneumonia that we’ve seen for a lot of the pandemic with other variants of COVID,” she said.

That said, she noted that some kids and some adults can still get sicker with COVID and with omicron, and it’s hard to know ahead of time who may get more severe symptoms.

“So we all just want to keep taking some of those really basic precautions,” she said. “We can hope for the best that they’re going to have a less problematic version of it, but nobody loves being sick.”

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Dr. Greves Grow said it’s also hard to predict who will have which symptoms of COVID-19.

“Honestly, at this point the best approach is really to test if there are any symptoms, or to keep people home for the entire time that it is recommended to isolate,” she said.

Those symptoms can include the sniffles, a cough, feelings of fatigue, headaches, and Greves Grow says even GI symptoms for younger kids can be a bit more common with viruses like COVID.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle Children’s pediatrician knows it’s ‘challenging’ to get young kids to mask up