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Stop Masking Children
They Need To Interact With The Microbial World
Throughout the declared COVID-19 pandemic I have been pleading for policy-makers and health care professionals to stop using children as shields in what is ultimately an adult battle over poorly practiced science.
I just learned that children are being forced to wear masks again on buses and in schools in many districts in the United States. This is due to the proverbial rise in ‘cases of COVID-19’ above an ‘acceptable threshold’. I’m not going to get into the fine details regarding misleading data about ‘cases’ that have resulted from misuse of otherwise elegant technologies such as the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Using improperly calibrated RT-PCR testing has caused chronic overestimation of ‘cases’ of COVID-19 to a substantial but unknown degree. This drove excessive fear. Excessive fear caused our society to abuse children in the name of ‘medical science’.
Where I live in Canada, most places no longer require masking of young children (although some still do). However, I have been shocked to see how many children are still masked; even when outdoors with nobody else nearby; even when in vehicles with the windows closed. Having consulted with many parents about this, there seem to be three primary reasons:
Parents are still frightened that their children are at imminent risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 and dying from COVID-19. Indeed, I have seen many unmasked parents who insist that their children wear a mask.
A lot of adults have been programmed to view children as asymptomatic super-spreaders that will kill elderly people.
Many parents are fine with children not wearing a mask but their child is now psychologically addicted to it; either due to fear (of dying or causing someone else to die) or it has become akin to a security blanket.
As a viral immunologist, I can tell you that children are at extremely low risk of dying from COVID-19. There are many other things that parents should be more concerned about. Also, there are lots of things you can do to make the risk even lower, including promoting exercise and a healthy bodyweight, eating nutritious foods, moderate exposure to sunshine to promote natural production of vitamin D, which the immune system needs for optimal functioning, etc.
More importantly, I want to make parents aware of two harmful aspects of masking children that I am in a position to comment on…
Isolating children from the microbial world promotes the development of chronic diseases.
Young children need to interact with the microbial world. It is absolutely essential to the proper development of their immune systems. I am not going to delve into too many scientific details here because I wrote about this in an article that I published in The Conversation in March 2021. It is entitled “A year of COVID-19 lockdown is putting kids at risk of allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases”. The French version can be found here.
In a nutshell, we are born with naïve and immature immune systems. Our immune systems don’t fully mature until well into the teenage years, with most of that development occurring between birth and about six years of age.
The ability of the immune system to self-regulate relies on interactions with the microbial world; especially via interactions with other people, particularly family members. This allows their immune system to learn to differentiate between things that are dangerous and those that are not. In turn, their immune system will become equipped to respond to dangers while preventing potentially harmful responses to things that pose no threat, such as self and inert environmental molecules and normal gut-resident bacteria, etc.
Isolating a young child from non-dangerous microbes in their environment compromises the ‘immunoregulatory’ components of their immune system. A dysregulated immune system often manifests itself in the form of allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
I felt compelled to write about this concern in May 2021 after I witnessed children being chronically isolated for more than a year. One year was the timepoint at which I felt that substantial, potentially irreparable harm could be done to children’s immune systems. I am appalled that many children have now been enduring this for well over two years, with no end in sight for some.
Masking is controversial and, arguably, largely ineffective against preventing the spread of viruses in ways other than via coughing and sneezing. However, they can pose a reasonable barrier to larger environmental particles (e.g., dust particles, dander, pollen, etc.) and bacteria. Throw in the excessive use of things like antibacterial hand sanitizers, being locked down in homes and lack of physical interactions, and we are now well on our way to having a micro-generation of children who will have been isolated like no other human beings in history. Unfortunately, these children will now be part of an unanticipated experiment on a global scale; one to really assess the validity of the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’. Although I would like to be wrong on this one, basic immunological principles suggest that very young children that had to endure COVID-19 lockdown policies might be faced with the highest rates of autoimmune diseases, allergies, and asthma in human history.
Masking children harms speech development.
I am not a formally trained expert in child development or speech pathology. However, I do have a child who has been dealing with delayed speech development. Through this, I have learned that observing lip, mouth and tongue placement and movements is critical to the proper development of speech. For example, here is a chart known as a ‘vowel ladder’ that my wife and I use to work with my son to improve his enunciation…
But, this is what my son has been seeing outside of the home for most of the past 2.5 years, including at school…
I’ve been hearing a lot of child development specialists complaining that there has been an increase in speech problems in young children. Now you can literally see one example of why that is.
For children who know what they want to say but have trouble with enunciation, adding the muffling effect of a mask makes it even more difficult for others to understand them, so there is a double-whammy that can cause a lot of frustration.
The moral of this story is to stop isolating our children from their microbial world. Let them get dirty. Let them interact with other children. Let them hug family members and friends. Consider getting a cat or dog that they can interact closely with. Take them on hikes in the woods or countryside. Definitely have them wash their hands with regular soap, but cut down on the antibacterial soaps and sanitizers. Every time normal flora on the skin are killed one risks having them re-populated with pathogens.
And, for goodness sake, let children see the mouths of others so they can learn to speak properly.
What harm is done from the last two-and-a-half years is done. But, please, let’s not keep locking down, physically distancing and masking our children ad nauseum. Not for SARS-CoV-2, not for the annual flu, not for monkeypox. Not for anything unless it is demonstrated via transparent, objective, publicly disclosed and openly debated science to be a genuine threat to the lives of a substantial proportion of children.