The inside scoop on Halloween masks and germs

Can you get sick from Halloween masks

My son loves Halloween – I mean really loves it. Recently, I took him to shopping at a local store to see what new creepy decorations were in stock for this season and to see if they had a costume that appealed to him.

While looking at an assortment of ghastly masks (that I would never buy him, but he was having fun looking) he decided to try one on for fun. I snapped a quick photo for posterity, and we went about our shopping. The thought never occurred to me until just recently the amount of germs that could potentially be lurking inside that mask from the unknown people who may have tried it on before. Yuck!

Now, I’m not an extreme germophobe or anything. I know germs are all around us all the time, and some are even beneficial. But, a mask that covers your face, nose and mouth seems particularly risky, if you think about it, not to mention this is the time of year we start seeing more respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold and influenza.

Can you get sick from Halloween masks?

“The CDC has not come out with any particular warnings regarding trying on masks, and they are not a known source of virus transmission at this time,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Ronald Quenzer, MD.

However, he did caution that it is possible to pick up an illness from a mask.

“Viruses such as influenza can live 24-48 hours outside the body – or even longer in the terms of the adenovirus, a common respiratory virus – and people can sometimes be sick without realizing it,” he said.

If someone is immunocompromised, it is probably best to avoid trying on masks altogether. Dr. Quenzer also reminded me most viruses spread via our hands, but can also spread up to three feet in the air through droplets from coughing and sneezing. So, doctors recommended coughing or sneezing in the crook of your arm as opposed to your hand.

Better safe than sorry

While most experts agree it is best if kids don’t wear masks at all, if you do, be sure to clean well before wearing. You can use alcohol-based hand wipes to kill the most common viruses this time of year. Also, Dr. Quenzer recommends getting you and your family vaccinated against the flu.

Stay safe out there, and happy haunting!

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