By Ginger Allen

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Millions of people will be dressing up for Halloween in just a few days. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $2.5 billion on costumes. The question is… what else are you possibly buying?

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The CBS 11 News I-Team has learned that those gory and gross masks may not be half as disgusting as what could be creeping and crawling on your face after you try one on.

We hit six North Texas stores in Frisco, Plano, Richardson and Dallas. We randomly swabbed 12 popular Halloween masks that we found on the store shelves. We asked clerks if they clean the masks and we were repeatedly told “no.”

We took the swabs to Armstrong Forensic Laboratory in Arlington to find out if the masks were as scary on the inside as they appeared on the outside. Scientist Karen Deiss found staphylococcus, micrococcus and bacillus. These may sound like big, nasty words, but they are actually fairly common bacteria which, typically, are only harmful to people who are already very ill.

But then came a surprise to Deiss. “This was not what I expected to find,” she said, looking down at several black and white fuzz-covered plates containing germs. “That’s mold. Depending on the mask, it would be right on your face.”

The CBS 11 News I-Team discovered mold growing on several masks. We found curvularia, which is a mold that some research shows can cause pneumonia. We also found bipolaris, which apparently has been known to cause a lung or sinus infection. And, we found aspergillus.

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“We have seen aspergillus cause illness in some patients, but these are in very sick patients,” explained infectious disease doctor Cedric Spak of Baylor Medical Center.

It all sounds and looks frightening but, before you panic, listen up! Dr. Spak is a self-admitted “voice of reason” when it comes to explaining germs. He said, if you search any of these bacteria, you will find certain infections associated with them. But it is not common. “I will see them in patients with severe immune deficiency — not healthy, dirty children.”

Dr. Spak said that healthy kids and adults do not typically need to worry about the bacteria, mold and fungus we found, but he said that there are some other tiny microscopic monsters living in the grooves of these masks that should concern you. “A cold virus, a flu virus, any type of virus can easily be transmitted with a napkin, a finger, a mask,” he said.

Dr. Spak said that you need to be aware of viruses traveling from one costume to another, particularly during this time of the year. These germs can live on masks and be a problem as we head into flu season.

So, what should you do?

— Tell your children not to share masks.

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— Carry around some disinfecting wipes to clean off the masks before you try them on.