CHICAGO (WLS) -- All children who are 2 and older, including the vast majority of kids with underlying health conditions, can safely wear masks, according to new guidance just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Masks are safe for children to wear and we recommend them," said Dr. Alison Tothy, spokesperson with the AAP. "They are going to keep your kids safe from infections, especially when they are around other kids."
In fact, dozens of children have been safely attending classes at El Valor's early childhood program. El Valor serves 2,000 children in the Chicago area at four different sites, including the Carlos Cantu Children & Family Center in Little Village.
The kids have been wearing face coverings for about eight weeks, said Nina Dueñas, El Valor's Senior Vice President of Children Services.
"It's our new way of living, and I think they have adjusted really well," Dueñas said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is emphasizing that not only do masks protect your child, they reduce the spread of COVID-19. Kids, they said, get used to them.
"I have not seen children pulling on it or trying to take them off. We probably saw that the first week, but a lot of constant reminding, and here we are eight weeks later and they're wearing their masks," Dueñas said.
At El Valor, kids can take off their masks off when they are outside and social distancing in the playground or eating lunch. Some of the children are at the program up to 10 hours and wearing their face coverings.
"Kids, like adults, can wear the mask as long as they need to," Dr. Tothy said.
Along with providing guidance, the AAP is also busting mask myths. They have addressed several questions over the past few months.
"Will it make it harder for my child to breathe? Can it interfere with my child's lung development? Will they not pay attention as much in school? All of those are not true," Dr. Tothy said.
Instead, Dr. Tothy said, children will mirror what their parents do, including whether or not they wear masks.
"This is just like putting on a helmet when you're bike riding, or putting on a seatbelt when you get your kid in a car seat. These are things that kids can absolutely get used to," she said.
At El Valor, children have adapted, but so have their teachers, parents, and fellow classmates, including those who are just 2 years old.
"If the parents are doing it, the teachers are doing it," Dueñas said, "the children will follow."