Rest Easy: Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is So Important and How to Get It

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart while I’m awake, you know?” 

– Ernest Hemingway 

It’s something we’ve been told all our lives–get a good night’s sleep. And considering we spend over one-third of our lifetime either sleeping or trying to fall asleep, there must be good reason. 

Turns out that good sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene, can help protect your overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that not getting enough sleep can put you at risk for a variety of health issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, problems with mental health, and even contribute to an early death. But how many hours of sleep a night do you really need and what constitutes good sleep hygiene? The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners are here to break it down for you.

The Numbers

The recommended amount of sleep per night varies with age, with children requiring more to support their growing bodies and developing brains. The Mayo Clinic provides these guidelines:

Newborns 14-17 hours/day

12 Months 10 hours/night with 4 hours of naps

2 Years 11-12 hours/night with 1-2 hour nap

3-5 Years 10-13 hours/night

6-13 Years 9-11 hours/night

14-17 Years 8-10 hours/night

Adults 7-9 hours/night

Sleep Hygiene

No one likes to feel tired or low-energy during the day, but what can you do to make it easier to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at night? Incorporate these suggestions to help establish healthy sleep habits (aka sleep hygiene):

  • Designate your bedroom for sleeping only. Do not bring in electronics, as they can be a distraction. Make sure your room is optimal for sleeping, dark and quiet enough to make you zen, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Establish a bedtime routine, where you go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning (try not to deviate from this too much on the weekends). This helps train your body, which thrives on consistency.
  • Stop using electronics 30 minutes before bedtime to allow your eyes to adjust.
  • Your overall activity level can impact your sleep patterns–try to be active during the day so your body is ready for a rest at night.
  • If you find that you come up with your best ideas (or rehash every worry) at night, keep a journal by your bedside to jot them down to address the next day. Knowing that you won’t forget them should help put your mind at ease and shut off these thoughts.
  • There are going to be those nights where you just can’t seem to fall asleep. If it’s been over 30 minutes of tossing and turning, it’s okay to get up and leave the room to do something else for a bit. Then try to sleep again once you feel tired. Remember to dedicate the bedroom to sleep.
  • You are what you eat. It’s hard to fall asleep if you go to bed hungry or if you’re too stuffed from eating a late dinner or snack. Try to avoid caffeine late in the day and alcohol before bedtime.
  • While we all may long for our childhood days when we were forced to nap, it’s not always the best idea as an adult. Sneaking in a nap longer than 30 minutes can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. If you really need that nap, keep it to 30 minutes and earlier in the day for the least amount of disruption.
  • Don’t get into bed until you feel sleepy.

If you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep and don’t feel like you adhere to any of the above, try not to feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Making even one or two of these changes to your routine can have a positive impact, and you can always add more changes as you feel comfortable. Sleepless nights are no laughing matter, and your primary care doctor is available to discuss a more customized approach. Now rest and repeat.

Family Summer Water Safety: 6 Tips to Remember

The school year is ending, Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner and the summer pool season is about to start. When people are enjoying time at the beach or pool they aren’t focused on potential injuries or drownings, but accidents can happen. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages one to 14 and it is the leading cause of unintentional death in ages one to four.

From water safety to simply staying hydrated and free of sun damage, Gaston Medical Partners wants parents and caregivers to follow these six tips to help keep everyone safe around water this summer.

1. Stay Hydrated

Anytime people are enjoying fun in the sun by a body of water or a pool they should drink plenty of water. If people don’t stay hydrated, they run the risk of passing out leading to injuries or possible drowning.

2. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Damage from UV rays builds over time so slathering on sunscreen starts with even the smallest members of the family. Choose the right sunscreen by looking for SPF 30 or higher and those that offer broad-spectrum protection. Apply 15 minutes before going outside and be sure to re-apply, especially after being in the water or sweating.

3. Install a Fence Around Home Pools

If people have a pool in their backyard, they should take a few precautions to help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming.

Install a fence around the pool with self-closing or self-latching gates and ensure the pool has proper drain covers. Installing an alarm on the door leading from the house to the pool can also help adults key in on any potential accidents.

4. Invest in Swim Lessons & Life Jackets

Swim lessons are available for even the youngest family members, but adults and older caregivers who cannot swim or are afraid of water should invest in them, too.

Additionally, make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket when in and around natural bodies of water or on a boat. The CDC recommends children wear a life jacket when in lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim.

5. Know How to Perform CPR

When people think of drowning, they think of a person flailing their arms and frantically calling for help, but drowning occurs quickly and quietly leaving rescuers only seconds.

Knowing CPR and how to use rescue equipment is important in case of an emergency. The American Red Cross offers CPR classes and, even if people have taken a CPR class in the past, it’s always a good idea to refresh their skills.

6. Pay Attention and Be Present

Even after taking these precautions, the most important one is to pay close attention. These lazy summer days spent with your little ones will be the memories you cherish when they are grown!

Scheduling an annual exam with your child’s Gaston Medical Partners doctor can allow parents to ask questions and assess developmental milestones. Your partners in health, for the entire family, are just a call away.

5 Tips to Help Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Taking charge of your health by developing sustainable habits like regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient rest helps keep blood pressure within normal ranges.

Gaston Medical Partners recommends these five tips to help people lower their blood pressure without the intervention of medication.

1. Eat a Balanced Diet

A well-rounded diet is a big part of leading a healthier lifestyle. Incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while reducing sodium intake. If snacking between meals, choose healthier options.

People can start changing their eating habits by keeping a food diary, reading food labels and referencing the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan.

2. Exercise Regularly

From a brisk walk to taking the dog for a quick run, consistent exercise should be a priority. Physical activity can help keep people at a healthy weight and lower their blood pressure. Aim to walk, jog, cycle, swim or dance for at least 30 minutes each day. Lifting weights can also help lower blood pressure and people should try incorporating strength training exercises at least twice a week.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important to overall health, clear thinking and everyday function. Establish a good sleep routine that consists of a set bedtime avoiding electronics and ensuring your bedroom is quiet and relaxing.

4. Don’t Smoke and Limit Alcohol

When people smoke or drink too much alcohol they can raise their blood pressure putting them at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. The CDC recommends that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should stick to one per day. Smoking and tobacco use in general is bad for the lungs and overall health. For help quitting, talk to your doctor about options and visit the CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use website for more information.

5. Decrease Stress

Chronic or occasional stress can contribute to high blood pressure. It’s important to pinpoint stress triggers, such as work, finances, family or illness.
Coping with stress is possible by planning ahead, focusing on things in your control, making time to relax, practicing gratitude and avoiding stressful situations.

These healthy habits combined with routine doctor visits are key to lowering blood pressure. Find out if your blood pressure is in the normal range by scheduling a check-up today.


5 Reasons Why Children Need Annual Exams

Parents start out with multiple newborn visits and vaccinations, but as kids grow it can be easy to forget to schedule an annual exam following the  American Academy of Pediatrics recommended calendar for preventive healthcare. Life gets hectic and it’s hard not to wonder if parents really need to miss that important meeting and pull their child out of school when they seem generally healthy.

Annual checkups with your child’s doctor are an important part of their wellness and keeps them up to date with immunizations, development and parents informed. The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners want parents to remember these five reasons to schedule their child’s annual exam today.

1. Help Prevent Health Issues

Benjamin Franklin famously stated in 1736 that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He may have been referring to fighting and preventing fires, but this phrase can certainly be extended to one’s health. There are several illnesses that present without symptoms. If a child has an annual check-up, it can be easier to identify potential problems and allow their doctor an opportunity to treat them.

Another important factor in prevention is regular immunizations and ensuring children are up to date on all vaccinations. This annual check-up also provides an opportunity to review proper nutrition, safety in the home and at school. Doctors want to help prevent injuries and promote healthy habits.

2. Track Growth Patterns

From the nick marks on the door frame to the height chart at amusement parks, children and parents alike enjoy seeing how much growth happens in a year’s time. Growth is an excellent indicator of health, including if a child is underweight or overweight. As they grow, their bodies are going through a lot and it’s important for their doctor to monitor these changes closely to see if the development is happening at a normal rate.

For parents or children with concerns about class grades or schoolwork, these exams also provide an opportunity to intervene early on from an intellectual and educational standpoint and further address any potential behavioral or academic issues.

Doctors typically discuss hearing or vision concerns, healthy sleep patterns, eating habits and promote nutritious food choices.  In addition, they may screen older children or teenagers for cholesterol and high blood pressure to test for high risks of cardiovascular disease.

3. Monitor Developmental Milestones

Annual exams allow for assessment of proper development and milestone achievement. When a doctor sees a child annually, they can track physical, emotional and educational milestones and indicate if intervention is needed. This can help prepare children and parents for school recommendations and set them up for better success later in life.

4. Monitor Behavioral Milestones

Typically, after the age of two, doctors start to screen for behavioral concerns. Parents share information that can help doctors pinpoint milestones that aren’t being met, like speech, walking and behavioral issues that parents and caregivers might not think to ask about.

If a parent has behavioral concerns, they could be the result of anxiety, hearing difficulties and vision challenges, which are medical issues a doctor can treat.

 5. Ask Questions

Having a check-up on an annual basis provides an opportunity to review a child’s development, compare growth to previous years and discuss school readiness. Are they on par, lagging or ahead of their peers? Most parents prefer to time their annual appointment before the school year starts to discuss their child’s emotional development or readiness for what’s ahead.

Check-ups also allow young ones a chance to get comfortable seeing their doctor regularly. This assures that when children get older, they feel comfortable talking with their doctor about different things as they age including sexual and mental health concerns, they may not want to share in front of their parents.

Having an opportunity to talk with your child’s doctor can be helpful and put the parent’s minds at ease. Whatever time you choose to book an annual exam, make it one that is easy to remember, whether that means lining it up with the child’s birthday or an annual flu vaccine.

Doctors want and should be part of this village that we need to help raise healthy, happy children, and they can’t do that if they don’t see them often enough. Go ahead and schedule that annual visit today.

Socializing Safely After COVID-19 Vaccine: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

You’ve been cooped up for over a year and ready to explore. Armed with your newly laminated COVID-19 vaccine card, you want to celebrate. But before you start hugging strangers, tossing face masks and throwing caution to the wind, we’re here to remind you of a few safety precautions.

The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners know that everyone wants some normalcy after a challenging 2020. But we have to remember to protect ourselves and those around us who have yet to receive the vaccine. So here are 10 do’s and don’ts to help fully vaccinated people navigate through life during this pandemic.

1. DO Take a Picture of Your Vaccine Card

Once you have received your vaccine card, make sure to store a picture of it on your phone for your records. This document will come in handy in the future for any COVID vaccine-related questions or needs. If you lose your card, contact the place where you originally received the vaccine and inquire about getting a copy.

2.   DO Wait Until You are Fully Vaccinated

The CDC considers a person fully vaccinated when they are two weeks past their final vaccination, whether it’s the Johnson & Johnson single dose or the second dose in a two-dose series like the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.

3.   DON’T Throw Out Those Face Masks

The COVID-19 vaccine does a phenomenal job keeping us from getting the coronavirus, and if we were to contract it, lowers our risk of getting severely sick and dying. What isn’t currently quite as clear is how well the vaccines reduce the spread of COVID-19. That means it’s possible that even those who are vaccinated can be contagious. By continuing to wear your mask and stay physically distant from others, you’ll reduce the chance of potentially spreading infection.

4. DO Take Precautions

The CDC recommends taking precautions while researchers work to understand the true efficacy of these vaccines. Remember to wear a face mask, wait six feet apart and wash hands thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to avoid gathering in large crowds, delay travel if possible and skip places that have poor ventilation.

5. DON’T Worry About Quarantine

Fully vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 unless they start experiencing symptoms. If symptoms appear, they should get tested and stay home and away from others for 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

6. DO Visit with Friends and Family

If people have been fully vaccinated, the CDC says they can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. If your circle of friends is sporting their vaccination cards, go ahead and schedule that wine night, but keep your group small.

The CDC also states that you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with family who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

This means it is safe to visit grandma and grandpa. Grandparents that are fully vaccinated can safely see their unvaccinated grandchildren without having to wear a mask as long as they keep the interactions to a small group.

7. DO Continue Opting for Outside

Whether you’re grabbing a drink, dining out or attending a live music event, continue to choose outdoor options to keep your activities as safe as possible for everyone involved. Indoor activities still pose inherent risks. Being outdoors, in the open air and socially distanced, is your best chance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If everyone in your party is vaccinated, the risk of catching COVID-19 is reduced. But it is important to avoid activities that could make you susceptible to getting the virus and spreading it to others, especially those at higher risk due to health issues or the fact they have not yet been vaccinated themselves. 

8. DON’T Ignore New Research About Variants and Boosters

It is expected that any virus will mutate. This is typical virus behavior, so seeing variants of COVID-19 already present isn’t a surprise, and new ones will continue to make themselves known. There is not yet enough information to know how long immunity offered by the current vaccines will protect us. It will take more research to know if we may eventually need boosters. 

9. DO Follow Travel Guidance

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are permitted to travel,

but they are suggesting that everyone avoid non-essential travel. If people must travel, they should follow local guidance and the CDC’s requirements and recommendations. While traveling, people should avoid crowded places, wear a face mask, wait at least six feet apart and routinely wash their hands or use hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol.

10. DO Make Appointments for Ongoing Health Needs

During the pandemic, patients have avoided making appointments for fear of COVID-19. GMP’s offices have been optimized for patient safety, including health screenings, mask policies and keeping COVID-19 testing outside the clinic. Additionally, seeing your primary care provider for your annual wellness exams and continuing with your ongoing medical care are the things that keep you healthy. If you’ve been putting off your next appointment, don’t hesitate to make it today

Maintaining a relationship with your doctor means you have a trusted resource to turn to when questions arise. Beyond the vaccine in your arm, you can also rely on your trusted physician to arm you with everything you need to stay well in changing times. 


Gaston Medical Previews COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution With Gov. Cooper

In this photo, taken by Khadejeh Nikouyeh of The Charlotte Observer, Gov. Roy Cooper greets our own Dr. David Locklear with an elbow bump.

Gaston Medical Partners was honored to welcome North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Wednesday, March 31, 2021, for a  tour of the practice and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Gov. Cooper greeted patients and encouraged those getting their vaccines to “go tell all your friends.”

Gov. Cooper shared with Drs. David Locklear and Michael McCartney how important it is to include family and primary care physicians in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan.

“Who knows how much vaccine hesitancy you are able to overcome because you are getting them the shot and they trust you,” Cooper told Gaston Medical Partners. He added that COVID-19 vaccination is the road to recovery, and is critically important to returning to normalcy.

As of March 31, Gaston Medical has received 200 doses of the vaccine and expects more to be delivered on a weekly basis. Currently these doses are reserved for patients who will be notified by email if they are eligible.

Coverage of Gov. Cooper’s visit can be seen in the The Charlotte Observer, and on WBTV and WSOC.











COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Gaston Medical Partners is no longer distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, but we encourage you to prioritize getting the vaccine where and when you can.

Where You Can Get the Vaccine

Atrium Health
Please note you will need to create a MyAtrium account.

CaroMont Health
If no appointments are available, join the interest list to receive updates.


Gaston County Public Health

Mecklenburg County Public Health
980-314-9400, Choose Option 3

Novant Health
Please note you will need to create a Novant MyChart account.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control


Where We Are Now

More than 70,000 people volunteered in clinical trials for the two vaccines to see if they are safe and work to prevent COVID illness. Volunteers included Black/African American, Hispanic/LatinX, Asians and others. To date, the vaccines are 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with no serious safety concerns noted in the clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure the vaccines are safe and can prevent people from getting COVID-19. Like all drugs, vaccine safety continues to be monitored after they are in use.

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. You may have temporary reactions like a sore arm, headache or feeling tired and achy for a day or two after receiving the vaccine. Learn more in our COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs.

Take your shot at no cost. The COVID-19 vaccine will be available for free, whether or not you have insurance.

Who Is Eligible

As of April 7, 2021, North Carolina moved statewide vaccination eligibility to Group 5. This means all NC residents aged 16 and older are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more at the NC Department of Health and Human Services website or click here to find a vaccine provider.


Stay connected to us, and to your care. Never forget we’re with you every step of the way. 

Colonoscopy Planning: 6 Things to Discuss With Your Doctor

Early colorectal cancer often displays little to no symptoms, which is why screenings are so important. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults age 50 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer, but there are other factors that may indicate earlier screening like a family history.

With the incidence of colorectal cancer rates – and deaths from those cancers rising in adults under 50, the American Cancer Society (ACS) now recommends that routine screenings should begin at age 45 for some. 

When making the decision to get a colonoscopy, it is important to have a plan in place. The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners want everyone to remember to discuss these six things with their primary care doctor before scheduling a colonoscopy.

1. Risk Factors

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as people get older but getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake may help lower the risk.

2. Family History

Some people are at increased risk of colorectal cancer because they have inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome). 

3. Screening Options

There are several screening tests that can be used to find polyps or colorectal cancer. The most common is a colonoscopy and is recommended at a frequency of every 10 years. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. A colonoscopy can also be used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests.

4. Colonoscopy Preparation

Anyone who has had a colonoscopy will say the worst part is drinking the bowel cleansing agent to prepare the night before. This cleansing agent helps to empty the colon and provide the doctor an unobstructed view and access to any polyps or suspicious spots. Here are a few things that can help make the experience more palatable.

  • Adjust diet a few days before the colonoscopy. Try to eat less and choose foods low in fiber.  
  • Put the bowel cleansing agent in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before drinking.
  • On the day before a colonoscopy, stick to a liquid diet.
  • Stay hydrated.

5. Day of Colonoscopy

It is important to arrive for the colonoscopy at the scheduled appointment time. This allows for patient registration, admission and preparation for the colonoscopy. Some patients with complex medical histories or unique situations may be asked to arrive earlier than scheduled.

All patients undergoing sedation or anesthesia are required to have a designated driver. Many facilities require that the driver remain in the waiting room during the procedure.

 6. Getting the Results

All screening test results are provided to the patient’s primary care doctor or gastroenterologist. Patients should discuss scheduling some time with their doctor to review results and discuss next steps.

If patients are concerned about colorectal cancer, they should make a plan for screening with their primary care physician discussing when to screen, which method and how often.

COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments – 6 Tips for Before and After

After a long, difficult pandemic, seeing more and more vaccines being administered can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel. When the vaccine is available for you, the doctors at Gaston Medical Partners recommend getting it as quickly as you can, not just to keep yourself safe but to keep your friends, family and the community healthy. 

When planning ahead for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment, follow these six tips to make sure the process goes smoothly and you feel informed, safe and comfortable along the way.

Before Your Appointment

1. Take the First Appointment Available to You

With vaccine appointments available at multiple distributors, it’s important to get the vaccine whenever and wherever you can. The first step is understanding which distribution group you fall into. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), which is managing vaccine distribution, has created five vaccination groups to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible, starting with those at the highest risk for getting dangerously sick. To learn which group you fall into, take their online survey. Once the vaccine is available for your group, use the NCDHHS’ vaccine finder to locate an appointment that is convenient for you. 

While many people express wanting to get the vaccine with their primary care physician or hoping for a specific version of the vaccine, it is most important to make the first available appointment to assure your health and the health of your loved ones. All approved versions of the vaccine are highly effective at fighting coronavirus. 

2. Plan to Manage the Side Effects

Be aware that the COVID-19 vaccine does have some side effects, which are expected. Much like the flu vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine will make your arm a bit sore. You may also experience a day or two of fever, achiness and joint stiffness. These side effects mean your immune system is working to create the antibodies that will help fight off COVID-19 if you are exposed. 

You may want to plan ahead for these side effects, knowing you may not feel your best right after being vaccinated. Acetaminophen or NSAIDs can be helpful in managing these symptoms after you have been vaccinated. It is not yet known if these medicines could impact your antibody production so avoid taking them prior to your appointment, unless they are part of your prescribed regimen, like for fighting chronic pain. 

3. Dress Comfortably and Wear a Mask

The COVID-19 vaccine, just like your flu shot, is given in the upper arm. Wear clothes that allow easy access to your arm, like a T-shirt. At your appointment, be sure to follow all the precautions we have to fight COVID-19. Wear a mask, stay socially distanced from others and wash your hands.

After Your Appointment

4. Put Your Next Dose on the Calendar

If the vaccine you’ve received takes two doses, like those from Moderna or Pfizer, your vaccine distributor should make your second appointment before you leave. Be sure to put that appointment on your calendar and prioritize going, as it takes both doses to get the best protection. At 94-95% effective, these vaccines work very well at fighting COVID-19, but it takes about two weeks after both doses have been administered to reach this full effectiveness. 

5. Continue Taking Precautions Seriously

Over the course of the pandemic, we have come to know well the precautions that fight COVID-19, from wearing masks to remaining distant from others. It’s important to continue putting these precautions into practice as many more people still need to be vaccinated. 

Your trusty vaccine card does not mean it’s time to put precautions aside. Asymptomatic spread is still possible, meaning people may feel fully healthy but are still able to spread the COVID-19 virus to others, which is especially dangerous for the population who has not yet been vaccinated. 

6. Don’t Ignore Your Other Health Needs

During the pandemic, many people have put aside their ongoing health needs for fear of going to their doctor’s office. It’s important not to ignore your ongoing care. 

At Gaston Medical Partners, we continue to take precautions to assure our offices are optimized for your safety. Staying healthy means seeing your physician even when you are well, for annual visits. These appointments keep you at your best health.

Children and Face Masks: 6 Tips to Make them More Comfortable

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to talk with children about the reasons people wear a face mask, practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands. COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking. A cloth face covering acts as a barrier to help prevent the spread of those droplets.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended everyone over the age of two wear a face mask in settings where social distancing is not possible. However, for many parents, getting a child to wear a face mask and leave it on may feel like a challenge. The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners want to remind parents that their child is capable of wearing a mask – it may just take patience and practice.  

Kids are resilient and adapt quickly. If you’re working with children, remember these tips to help make wearing a face mask more comfortable and routine.

1. Explain

Explain why the face mask is important using age-appropriate language. For younger children, stick to simple, concrete terms such as stating, ‘Wearing a face mask helps keep us safe and keep others around us safe,’ or ‘Wearing a face mask can help protect us and others from germs.’ Be consistent in how you explain this and repeat the message over and over.

For older children, share more detailed information and refer to trusted resources such as the CDC for illustrations that show how masks can help prevent the virus from spreading.

2. Normalize and Validate

If a child has concerns or fears about wearing a face mask, practice patience and acknowledge that this is different, and it may feel weird. Adults should lead by example, wearing their own face masks.

Remember children learn and process feelings through play. Give a child a mask for their favorite stuffed animal or have them help draw and decorate a mask. Practice putting the mask on their toy and have the child practice wear theirs to make it feel more routine. Listen to what the child says during play to understand the emotions they are feeling.

3. Ensure Fit and Comfort

Making sure a child’s mask fits correctly and comfortably will help prevent fidgeting. A cloth face mask should fit over a child’s nose and mouth securely under their chin. Avoid any gaps on the sides by adjusting the mask’s fit so it is snug. Always check that the child can breathe easily when wearing the face mask. When putting on a child’s face mask, or when teaching the child how to put on their own mask, make sure they wash their hands first.

For little ones sensitive to touch and sound, a soft fabric mask may be more comfortable than a paper disposable face mask that can rub or rustle. To protect against droplets from coughs or sneezes, try a face shield.

4. Enlist the Child’s Help

There are many different types of masks available so make sure to have the child participate in the process of picking one out, giving them some control. If they are involved and choose their favorite color or character, they are more likely to feel excited about wearing the face mask.

Choose a covering that is easily washable and sized for the child’s age. If little ones complain about ear pressure, find face masks that tie behind the head, or use clips or buttons to fasten ear loops to a headband, hat or an extender band.

5. Practice

Whenever introducing something new to a child, it can help to practice and slowly get them comfortable with the change. Before the child wears their face mask in public, practice putting on the mask and wearing it for short periods around the home working up to longer periods of time. Some even use a timer and rewards.

6. Plan

Wearing a face mask is a big adjustment for all of us. Make sure to build in plenty of time to have the child practice putting on and taking off their own face mask. Wear them around the house to get more practice and plan for hiccups when out in public.

Remember this is new and has an adjustment period. Use positive language and reinforce why wearing a face mask is helpful for families and for others in the community. Focusing on the things that can be controlled and thinking positively can go a long way in reducing anxiety. Try to remain patient, positive, and praise small victories, no matter how tiny.