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Pediatricians: Very few medical-based reasons to opt your child out from mask wearing

Ahead of the first day of school on Tuesday, Duval County Public Schools reported it received 4,700 mask opt-out forms.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools is not mandating masks, but requiring parents to opt their children out if they don’t want them to wear masks.

Ahead of the first day of school on Tuesday, the district says its received 4,700 mask opt-out forms, which is about 3.7% of students enrolled in brick and mortar this school year.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, doctor offices like Rainbow Pediatric Center in Jacksonville have been swarmed with requests for face mask medical exemption notes for kids.

“Over the last couple of months, there's sometimes camps that mandate masks, or schools or daycares," Dr. Prasanthi Reddy, Rainbow Pediatric Center medical director, said. "And parents do ask, you know, 'Can I get an exemption?'“

However, Reddy said a lot of common exemption requests from parents have no underlying medical basis, such as asthma.

“Parents are worried that their child is going to have an asthma exacerbation because of the mask," Reddy said. "And that is not proven to be true," she explained. "In fact, if your child is having exacerbations with something like a mask or with mild exercise, then you really need to work with your pediatrician on getting that asthma to be better managed.”

Last week, after the Duval County School Board voted to approve its opt-out mask policy for students, Dr. Reddy wanted to help parents make an educated choice. 

She shared the science on social media with suggestions to help kids become more comfortable wearing a mask – depending on their underlying medical condition.

Credit: Rainbow Pediatric Center

For example, if you have a child with sensory issues, the post suggests practicing wearing masks at home.

“If they're uncomfortable, try different masks," Jacksonville pediatrician Dr. Randy Thornton said. "There are so many nice ones out there that fit comfortably.“ 

Thornton and Reddy both agree that medically there are very few reasons you should sign a mask opt-out form for your kids.

All children two years old and older should wear face masks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the only medical contradictions are:

  1. Developmental delays: Children with limited motor control preventing from removing his/her mask independently. Children with difficulty managing oral secretions which may saturate the mask.
  2. Structural abnormalities of the head or neck: However, some of these children may be able to wear bandana-style coverings.

“I understand that the parents ultimately have that choice, but just consider it an added layer of protection," Reddy said. "I'm not saying it's the end all be all for keeping your kids protected.“

“My advice to parents, please don't opt-out yet. If there's any special concerns you have, please discuss those with your doctor," Thornton explained. "But please don't opt-out right now until we can get the kids vaccinated. The masks are the best thing we have next to a vaccine.“

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