Coronavirus: Do Halloween masks protect you from Covid-19?

  • A cloth or surgical face mask offers protection that your rubber vampire, zombie or Donald Trump mask cannot
  • Other ways to avoid risk of infection or exposure to the virus include not trick-or-treating, or screaming at a haunted house
Associated Press |

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Yup, pretty scary, but not as scary as the 'rona. Photo: SCMP

Wearing a costume and mask for Halloween has long been a holiday tradition. But a costume mask is not a substitute for a protective mask. Cloth masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, slow the spread of Covid-19.

“A mask as part of a costume would not be considered to be protective against transmission of infection,” says Dr Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic paediatric infectious diseases specialist.

“And we would discourage wearing a cloth mask underneath a Halloween face mask because that can impair breathing or make breathing difficult.”

Rajapakse says consider using a Halloween-themed cloth face mask.

“People should wear a cloth face covering that covers their nose and their mouth,” says Rajapakse. “There are some nice Halloween prints that they’re making now, but we are discouraging wearing them underneath a costume mask. A costume mask itself does not provide protection against transmission of the virus.”

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The primary way that the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets. When a person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings, they can generate droplets that someone else can potentially inhale.

But what about that the screams that a visit to a haunted house can produce?

“We do know that screaming generates respiratory droplets, so keeping more than 6 feet of distance is recommended in those situations,” says Rajapakse.

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Traditional Halloween activities such as trick-or-treating are discouraged this year because of a high risk of infection or exposure to the virus. Outside activities where social distancing can be practised are lower risk than indoor gatherings or parties. Better low-risk options include virtual events, such as a virtual costume party or activities involving only your household family members.

Rajapakse says it is important that people adhere to recommended guidelines to reduce the risk of infection.

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“If you are sick, or if you’ve been exposed to anyone with Covid-19, we recommend against any activity where you’re coming into contact with other people.

“If you are going to be in contact with others from outside of your household, wear a cloth face covering, make sure that you wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, either using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and try to adhere to that 6 feet of physical distancing. These measures will help keep you and your family as safe as possible.”