Spending

'Stock up on face masks' for your kids as part of back-to-school shopping, says critical care medicine specialist

"Last year, we saw very few masks sized for kids from major retailers but this year is completely different."

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For a lot of kids, in-person learning will look different this year: Many school districts are already requiring that students mask while indoors, while others may soon.

If you're sending your child to class, they'll likely need to be more careful than they have been with those inside their pandemic bubble, says Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. It would be wise to "stock up on face masks and hand hygiene material."

How and where to buy face masks

Many stores are discounting their kids masks, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "Last year, we saw very few masks sized for kids from major retailers, but this year is completely different: You can find masks for all ages at plenty of traditional stores," Ramhold says.

At Gap, for example, a 3-pack of kids' masks is on sale for $5, down from $15. A JCPenney, a 3-pack of kids masks is discounted from $9 to $2, a 78% discount. And at Carter's, a 3-pack of masks is discounted from $9 to $3.

And PPE, including face masks and hand sanitizer, can be eligible for reimbursement if you have an FSA or HSA account.

Last year, we saw very few masks sized for kids from major retailers, but this year is completely different: You can find masks for all ages at plenty of traditional stores.
Julie Ramhold
consumer analyst with DealNews.com

Teach kids how to wear a mask and be safe

"Talk to your kids about face masks," says Galiatsatos. "Teach them how to really use it."

Involve them in the shopping process. "Make sure it's something the child selects," he says. "The worst thing you can do is get a face masks they cannot tolerate and they keep pulling it down."

Communal school supplies and sharing are often part of the school experience. And there isn't any reason your kids can't share with their classmates, Galiatsatos says. However, you can explain to your kids why it's important to sanitize communal toys, too. "We're all into sharing," he says. "But have conversations about cleaning something off before handing it over."

Overall, it's important to help them understand that things will be different this year, he says:" Emphasize that, from their standpoint, there are certain ways to interact in society more safely as we adapt."

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