As Halloween approaches, so do the many questions parents have about how to celebrate the spookiest day of the year during one of the spookiest years on record. Is it safe to trick-or-treat? Should we still pass out candy? Can kids run around the neighborhood if they stay six feet apart? Do kids need to wear a face mask if their Halloween costume has a mask already? It’s enough to make a stressed out parents summon the spirits for advice.
If you were hoping the mask that came with your kid's Paw Patrol costume would be sufficient, bad news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released explicit Halloween recommendations and they’re clear when it comes to masks: "A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask," the guidelines state.
"A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face" the CDC reports.
“Halloween costume masks are not made to protect like a regular protective face mask intended for coronavirus use,” Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D., tells Romper.
“It is important to wear a mask made with two or more layers of breathable fabric that completely covers the nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of the face without any gaps.”
Which leads to the next question: So, can’t my kid just wear one of their everyday face masks under their costume mask? Unfortunately, this arrangement can pose a different type of risk, Donna Hallas, Ph.D., director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program and clinical professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, tells Romper.
“A lot of those face masks for children are plastic or a hard material. So what could easily happen w a parent puts the costume mask over it, a child could actually not be able to breathe well enough. So that's a big concern."
“Wearing a regular protective face mask over a costume mask should be avoided altogether as it could make it difficult to breathe,” Dr. Posina agrees. “Instead, wear a Halloween-themed protective face mask or decorate a regular protective face mask with Halloween themes without compromising the quality of protection.”
Dr. Hallas discourages parents from letting children wear Halloween masks altogether, unless they’re just with their family in their homes. When out and around other children, she says, it's best to follow CDC guidelines and have children wear regular face masks with their costumes.
She realizes that mandate could be crushing to a child, but urges parents to remember that the threat of Halloween being a super spreader event is very real, and there's no reason to take the risk when there are creative ways to help kids get in the spirit that aren’t as dangerous. “They could wear their costume mask at home and do a Zoom party with friends,” Dr. Hallas suggests. The thrill of showing off their costume will still be there, but from the safety of home.
Donna Hallas, Ph.D., CPNP, PMHS, FAANP, FAAN, director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program and clinical professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, nursing.nyu.edu
Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D., Board Certified NYC Area Internist, sunsimaya.com