COLORADO SPRINGS — As students prepare to return to the classroom, the Children's Hospital Colorado says more parents are asking for exemptions so their child won't have to wear a mask in the classroom.
Dr. Monica Federico, the medical director of the asthma program at the hospital, says they won't provide those letters because masks are so important for children over two-years-old. She says they're important to maintain the health of kids with asthma and those around them.
"Wearing a mask is something to absolutely do, it is safe. There is nothing about a mask that will make it difficult for a child to breathe," said Federico.
Respiratory infections like COVID-19 can affect the lungs by causing swelling and narrowing of airways, triggering asthma symptoms. She says many parents are concerned that masks will make it more difficult for their children with asthma to breathe. She says children who are struggling to breathe in their masks may not have their asthma well-controlled.
"If their breathing is harder than that may be an indication that their asthma is not controlled and they need to take their medication," said Federico.
She says the only reason the hospital would issue an exemption is if the child is unconscious or incapacitated, meaning they wouldn't be able to take the mask off if something were to happen. To help children wear a mask, she says parents should model good behavior and get them to wear it for short periods of time.
Federico says parents should be sure to keep their children up-to-date on their vaccinations. She says it will help medical professionals come fall to have the flu vaccination.
Ashley Laderman, who is a mother of two, says she decided to get an exemption for her four-year-old son. Cayden has cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, and asthma. He also has to be tube feed. She says it was important for him to feel comfortable while in the classroom, especially since he has special needs.
"He does get headaches from wearing the mask and we have to monitor the hydration levels because with his mouth covered, he doesn't have any interest in taking anything orally. Even though he does have needs, he does like to drink," said Ashley.
She says Cayden has mixed feelings about wearing a mask, but he doesn't mind wearing one for short periods of time. Right now, they are working with him to wear one more regularly.
"He does try to pull it off as soon as we go to the grocery store or as soon as we go to the zoo. Mainly outside when it is really hot and hard to catch your breath," said Ashley.
It's because of these reasons that she chose to request an exemption for Cayden which required her to get approval from the school district and her son's pediatrician.
"The pediatrician said a child of his age, four-years-old, is very unlikely to catch coronavirus or have symptoms," said Ashley. "They had no concern with him not wearing a mask, but he will have one in his backpack for small group activities."
Ashley says it's important for parents to advocate for their children and be understanding of other parents' decisions.
"We should not judge or make rude comments and know it is a struggle for parents with small children," said Ashley.
The Children's Hospital Colorado has resources for parents concerned with their child's asthma, return to school and masks.