Starting at age 12, children should wear face masks wherever adults wear them, such as in crowded settings, as a tool against Covid-19, the UN health and children's agencies say in a guidance document for decision makers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) did not generally recommend children between ages 6 and 11 wear masks, but that they should be considered in areas with intense virus transmission or in special settings such as schools.
However, there are situations when masks "can significantly interfere with the learning process and have a negative impact on critical school activities," said international experts who drafted the guidance.
Younger children should not be made to wear masks, mainly because they cannot put them on and off correctly by themselves, according to the document that was published Friday evening.
The expert group said children up to 5 years old would need to be under constant supervision if they did wear masks.
"Children should also be listened to regarding their perceptions and any concerns about wearing a mask," they said.
Transparent visors offer less protection than fabric mouth and nose coverings, according to the guidance document.
According to data from around the world, only around 1 to 7% of all Covid-19 cases are children and youths below age 18.
There are conflicting studies about whether infected children carry less, more or the same amount of novel coronavirus compared to adults.