Children under the age of 2 shouldn't wear masks because they can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking, a medical group has said, launching an urgent appeal to parents as the nation reopens from the coronavirus crisis.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for Tokyo and four remaining areas on Monday after the number of infections fell across the country, but warned that it could be reimposed if the virus started spreading again.
To prevent that spread as countries loosen restrictions following coronavirus shutdowns, health experts worldwide are recommending people wear masks when it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
But the Japan Pediatric Association has warned parents that masks are too risky for infants.
"Masks can make breathing difficult because infants have narrow air passages," which increases the burden on their hearts, the association said, adding that masks also raise the risk of heat stroke for them.
"Let's stop the use of masks for children under 2 years old," the association said in a notice on its website.
It said that so far there were very few serious coronavirus cases among children and that most cases in the age group became infected from family members, with almost no outbreaks at schools or day care facilities.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics also say children under the age of two should not wear cloth face coverings.