After weeks of looking, your child has finally chosen a costume for Halloween. How spectacularly spooky they’re going to look as they’re strolling through the streets on October 31 looking for tricks and treats. Best part: the costume comes with a mask, so you won’t have to worry about them wearing a face covering, right? Hmmm, not necessarily. As you prep for the howlingly good fun they’re going to have, you should know if you have to wear a face mask for Halloween if your costume already has one.
If you thought that the mask that is a part of your child’s costume can substitute for wearing the face masks we’ve all worn up until now, think again. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises against using a costume mask as a substitute for a real one. The only exception is if the face mask has two or more layers of breathable fabric that fit snugly around your mouth and nose.
Dr. William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert and the Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Health Policy as well as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN certainly agrees. “You have to wear a regular mask,” says Dr. Schaffner. “You have to make sure that it’s not just a mask for entertainment purposes, but for virus containment purposes.”
Think about it. Any mask that comes with a costume is meant to shield your entire face—it isn’t designed to prevent the spread of a virulent virus. And if you consider how many times your kiddo is going to probably lift the mask off their faces as they’re trick-or-treating (and then talk, laugh, shout, and play with other kids maskless), well, then it can become a serious health and safety issue, not just for your child, but everyone around them.
So now, what do you do? If your child’s costume comes with a mask (and you’re going to be around others), you need a way to keep them safe. Dr. Schaffner suggests doubling down on masks and wearing both. “Just wearing a Richard Nixon mask, or Star Wars mask, that won’t do it,” he says. “You have to put that on over your regular mask, because you can’t use funny faces as a way of inhibiting the virus.” Thing is, the CDC advises against using a costume mask over a cloth mask, because it might make breathing more challenging. You can always try to put the face covering over your child’s Halloween mask to see how well they can breathe through it. That way, they can be safe and still be a scream — literally.
Another option is to forego the costume mask in favor of a face covering that will keep them safe. You can always look for a fall or Halloween-themed face mask that will complement their costume while giving them the added protection against the virus that they need.
It’s crucial that your kiddo wears a face mask this Halloween, and that can become more complicated when their costume already has a mask. Make sure that they wear one that will give them the most protection against COVID-19, so that all they bring home are a bag full of candy, wonderful memories of this Halloween—and nothing more.