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Safest options to mask up your kids as they return to in-person learning

Although N95 masks offer the greatest protection, they can be hard to find for kids right now. Here are a couple of backup plans to help keep your kids healthy.

HOUSTON — For parents sending their kids to school in person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all children wear masks.

So, which ones are best?

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health, said N95 masks are safest.

However, because of the surging demand in wake of the Delta variant, some suppliers are experiencing a backlog. For those who can’t find N95 masks in time, Troisi offers a second-best option.

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“A two-ply mask with a tighter weave material is good,” Troisi said. “And if it has a filter pocket, you can put a filter in there.”

The filter is as simple as a number one coffee filter available for purchase at the grocery store.

The third best option, according to Troisi, is a surgical mask with a cloth mask over it.

“Just like for adults the most important things are that they fit properly,” she said. “As a parent, to protect your child, you are really going to have to teach them some responsibility about wearing that mask all day long.”

Cecilia Rodriguez is a mother who has been teaching her three children that responsibility. Rodriguez has concerns about their safety.

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“I feel very anxious and worried,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez knows all too well how serious a virus can be. In 1988, during a measles outbreak in Houston, she wasn’t vaccinated and contracted the virus.

“I was in a coma for almost nine months,” she said.

Measles left her with lifelong disabilities.

She takes the threat of COVID-19 seriously. Her kids, from pre-school to high school, have strict instructions on back-to-school safety. All will be wearing N95 masks and have a personal arsenal of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

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