Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Practice Practice Pointer

Mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents during the covid-19 pandemic

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 24 August 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1730

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Rapid Response:

Masking Schoolchildren is Institutional Child Abuse

Dear Editor
Returning from a trip away, I was disturbed to witness the haunting sight of a tiny, five year old boy in school uniform, standing silently and still, his face encased in a black mask. Only his frightened and traumatised eyes were visible.

Since children are at less risk from coronavirus than influenza (1) and pose no risk to others (2), covering their faces not only risks damage to the developing brain from hypoxia (3), inhibits excretion of carbon dioxide leading to respiratory acidosis (4), forces them to inhale accumulated bacteria and fungi (5), and promotes headaches, dermatitis (6), and tooth decay (7), but it clearly worsens rather than protects their state of health (8).

Not only is physical health harmed but also the psychological and emotional development of the child is inevitably affected by inhibiting normal communication via speech and facial expression (9), risking mental health problems and underdeveloped social skills, including empathy (10).

Those individuals who mandate or enforce such irrational and harmful policies are guilty of nothing less than Institutional Child Abuse. Anyone in a position of responsibility is legally obliged to prevent harm to those in their care and failure to do so represents a dereliction of duty (11).

So, when is the Medical Profession going to speak out and take action to prevent harm to child patients?

In the absence of medical ethics, let us hope that parents can find the courage to protect their offspring from those who continue to undermine the younger generation by means of reckless and unjustifiable policies.

Failure to do so renders the future a very bleak place indeed.


Competing interests: No competing interests

12 September 2021
Janet Menage
GP retired
Wales, UK