As the start of the school year approaches in France, voices are raised about the risk of contamination of children and teachers at school. Zoom in on what the World Health Organization is saying about the wearing of masks in children.

While the start of the school year is fast approaching in France, and the Covid-19 epidemic is not weakening, on the contrary, the question of children's contagiousness arises. At the microphone of our colleagues from France Info, the President of the Scientific Council Jean-Fran├žois Delfraissy was frank: “there will be contamination at school, children will become infected, probably some teachers too, but we will manage it”, he assured. Despite everything, the scientist believes that the resumption of school, which children and parents desperately need, is encouraged by the "acquired knowledge about the circulation of the virus in children. Children carry the virus, but in small quantities. Serious forms in children are exceptional ", thus wanted to reassure Jean-Fran├žois Delfraissy.

Aware of the calendar, the World Health Organization (WHO) published on August 21 a document in which it details what is known about coronavirus infection in children, and what it advises on the wearing a mask for this population.

Recalling that children have, a priori, a lower susceptibility to Sars-CoV-2 infection than adults, but that this varies according to their age - adolescents playing a more active role in the transmission of the virus - , WHO considered that the benefits of wearing a mask in children should be balanced by the potential harm caused by the latter. Discomfort, difficulties in wearing it, but and communication problems should be taken into account. While calling for new studies to learn more about coronavirus infection in children, WHO has detailed four important points about mask wearing in minors.

No mask in children before the age of five

Based on what its experts are saying, WHO believes that children aged zero to five should not wear masks. Motivated by "doing no harm", this decision is based in particular on the fact that the child is in full social development, and that he does not have the autonomy required to use a mask correctly.

There is therefore a risk of misuse which is counterproductive, which the French government has also pointed out. Hence the decision in France not to require children to wear a mask before the age of eleven, whether in enclosed public places, in kindergarten or even in primary school. This is not recommended in primary and even prohibited in kindergarten.

Between the ages of six and eleven, factors to consider

While the French government does not recommend the mask in primary school, that is to say between 6 and 10 years old, the WHO is more measured.

The organization believes that a risk-based approach should be applied to mask wearing for this age group. It is therefore necessary to take into consideration:

1 the intensity of transmission of the virus in the area in which the child is living, and data on the risks of transmission and infection of his age group;
2 the socio-cultural environment, such as customs, beliefs, behaviors and social norms influencing the community, and interactions between and with children;
3 the child's ability to use the mask properly with adult supervision;
4 the potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development;
5 or the specific considerations and the necessary adaptations, in particular when the child lives with an elderly relative or is himself a carrier of a pathology.

The WHO therefore does not reject outright the interest in wearing a mask for a child under 11, unlike the French executive.

For those over 12 years old, the mask recommended as in adults

Finally, as regards the age group of 12-18 years, in other words adolescents, the WHO considers that it must comply with the recommendations it has established for the use of the mask in children. adult. This is recommended by WHO for people at risk only. In its opinion of April 6, the WHO considered that wearing a systematic mask could create a false sense of security and lead to the neglect of other barrier gestures.

However, she admits that “the wearing of a mask by healthy people in collective spaces has the potential advantages of reducing the risk of potential exposure to an infected person during the“ presymptomatic ”phase and of not stigmatizing people who wear a mask because they are infected ”.

 Finally, the WHO considers that the wearing of a mask for children who are immunocompromised or with respiratory pathologies (cystic fibrosis for example) is generally recommended, whatever their age, but that it must be put on after consultation with the team. medical care that follows the child.