FFP2 masks for children in the test: a lot of room for improvement

The second Corona winter is relentless. The number of infections is rising rapidly. For school children, this means that masks are once again a part of everyday school life. The Standing Vaccination Committee (Stiko) has issued a vaccination recommendation for certain five- to eleven-year-old children: for children with previous illnesses and for children living near people at risk of a serious course of Covid 19. For healthy children in this age group, however, there is still no general vaccination recommendation from Stiko. However, they can still be vaccinated upon individual request and after consultation with a physician. The low-dose childhood vaccine was due to arrive by doctors in mid-December.

Tried and tested for adults – but also for children?

FFP2 masks have proven their worth to adults during the pandemic. Colorfully packaged masks that promise FFP2 protection are also available to young people. They are available in many online stores, but also in some stationary stores and pharmacies.

FFP2 masks for children tested

Questions arise for parents: Can children carry them without hesitation? Is it easy to breathe and which FFP2 mask for children filters aerosols reliably?

Stiftung Warentest examined 15 masks that indicate fitness for children. We have also checked whether the 3M Aura 9320+ is also suitable for children. In our test of adult FFP2 masks, it was the only one with particularly low breathing resistance.

If you are wearing a mask, you should be able to breathe well underneath. This is especially true for children.

High breathing resistance, low breathing comfort

But the bad news: Of all the models tested, only the 3M adult mask offers breathing comfort that is okay for children if they only wear the mask for a short time. On the other hand, we consider all tested FFP2 children’s masks to be less suitable for children. Your breathing resistance is high, your breathing comfort low.

Poor for continuous use in school. Surgical masks are the better choice for this. Although they offer little self-protection, they protect others and do not harm the little ones who wear them.

The pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Folke Brinkmann classifies in an interview the consequences of children wearing masks.

Our advice: How to protect your children

At high risk.
Where there is a high risk of infection over a short period of time, for example in the crowded train, children can use the adult mask 3M Aura 9320+ (2.12 euros per mask) for a short time. Their breathing comfort is okay for children, their filter effect is high. And it also fits small heads. Adults should wear FFP2 masks for a maximum of 75 minutes and then take a break. By then, it should also be over for children.
For longer missions.
is for the school day Surgical masks or medical mouth and nose protection (MNS) the better choice. They allow children to breathe well and at least protect each other. There is no risk of injury if these masks are worn for an extended period of time. For hygiene: Change the mask at least every day.
Long term.
Protection against infection and respiratory comfort – the currently available baby masks do not guarantee this at the same time. Self-protection could offer a corona vaccination, which is now also recommended by Stiko to certain five- to eleven-year-olds. However, all other children in this age group can still be vaccinated at individual request and after medical advice. The first childhood vaccines, which are dosed lower than for adults, are to be delivered to doctors in mid-December. One thing is clear: Vaccinated and healthy adults also protect unvaccinated children.
In previous diseases.
If children have previous respiratory illnesses or a weak immune system, parents should clarify with the doctor treating them which face mask makes sense.

The FFP2 standard does not provide children as users

FFP2 masks for children tested - lots of room for improvement

Nothing for children. Even though much of the packaging appears childish. © Stiftung Warentest / Ralph Kaiser

Even in our testing of classic FFP2 masks, breathing resistance proved to be a problem. When high, the lungs must work harder to draw air through the mask and push out old air. Breathing is difficult. For adult masks, the standard applicable to FFP2 masks specifies the maximum breathing resistance.

FFP2 masks for children tested - lots of room for improvement

Not okay. The standard for FFP2 masks does not allow the use of children. © Stiftung Warentest / Ralph Kaiser

However, the FFP2 standard comes from occupational safety and does not provide children as users. “FFP2 children’s masks” should therefore not exist, do not bear any CE mark nor be sold. If you are looking for the masks, you will still find them without any problems.

Not even suitable for adults

The standard prescribes clear criteria for FFP2 adult masks, but they do not exist for children’s masks. But one thing is clear: Children usually breathe less vigorously than healthy adults, and often only about half of their lung volume.

In the test of “FFP2 children’s masks” we had six to twelve year old school children in mind. Following professional advice from experts, we have required that FFP2 children’s masks should be about half the respiratory resistance allowed for adult masks. But none of the tested mini-format masks came close to the lower values. Their breathing resistance was within reach of adult masks.

Many of them did not even reach the limits of it, so would not even be acceptable to adults. Since we see the high respiratory resistance as a knockout criterion for children’s masks, we have not checked further whether these masks fit well or filter.

FFP2 masks for children tested
Test results for 16 FFP2 children’s masks 2021

Video: FFP2 children’s masks are tested

Studies of FFP2 masks in children are sparse

The high breathing resistance can get in the way of the masks’ goals: If children have difficulty breathing, they simply cannot put on the mask properly, so the air flows in unfiltered.

The effects of children repeatedly wearing masks with high breathing resistance over extended periods of time have not been thoroughly studied scientifically. A few studies show that the FFP2-like N95 masks have no problematic effects on children’s bodies during short periods of use. For long wear times, however, similar studies are sparse.

We recommend surgical masks

For safety reasons, we therefore advise healthy children to wear surgical masks. Studies conducted so far have not revealed any risks.

With the recommendation, we follow the official guidelines for the prevention and control of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools, which a number of medical companies and organizations have developed, among other things, on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.

3M mask as a temporary alternative

FFP2 masks for children tested - lots of room for improvement

3M Aura 9320+. In preliminary tests, it convinced with its breathing comfort – so we checked its suitability for children. © Stiftung Warentest / Ralph Kaiser

The 3M Aura 9320+, which was already convincing in the test of FFP2 adult masks, is the only one that offers a breathing resistance that is within our “child limit”. Although 3M does not advertise that it is suitable for children, we checked it again: It also adapts to small heads, is tight and filters reliably.

For short-term use, such as in the full train, we consider the 3M mask to be suitable for children and the best FFP2 mask for children.

However, it is also not the right choice for long-term use. With FFP2 masks, even adults should take a 30-minute break after using them for at least 75 minutes, especially children. This is hardly compatible with everyday school life. In addition, the 3M headband does not make it easy for the little ones to put it on themselves.

Answer questions about children’s masks

When it comes to children wearing masks, many questions arise: From what age should children wear masks at all, from what age are FFP2 masks suitable? Why are FFP2 masks banned but still certified in many cases? How often should a child’s face mask be changed? We provide answers about wearing masks in children.

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