Last Updated on 24th March 2021

Our Safeguarding Team have been made aware of several isolated reports of pranksters dressing up as 17th-century ‘plague doctors’ which has scared some children.

What is a Plague Doctor?

A plague doctor is a historical figure that dates back to the bubonic plague. They wore a black cloak and a crow like bird mask, the imagery associated with them is often associated with death and disease, which can be unsettling.

Social and news media can draw significant attention to events like these and it’s important that you have the facts during times were there may be uncertainty and heightened concern.

The images of this character may well be unsettling for children and some adults. At this point, we have been unable to substantiate any serious incidents connected to these events.

What we know so far:

  • This is not new. The interest in the ‘plague doctor’ was first seen during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic and was popular on social media
  • Some safeguarding professionals are aware of these incidents, and a small number of police forces are talking about them

  • There is no evidence that these incidents are widespread or of reports of violent attacks linked to individuals wearing these costumes

  • Some incidents have been proven false

  • There are already discussions on social media about these incidents, of which most are sensationalised speculation

plague doctor

Top Tips:

  • PauseTry to avoid sharing any stories on social media related to this character. This can be counter-productive and create even more concern  

  • Think – Avoid naming this character directly if the children in your care have not mentioned it to you, in doing so you can drive curiosity which can cause them to search for it online.

  • WatchOur trusted adult videos with the children in your care and have a conversation about who they would talk to if something was worrying them.
  • ReassureMake sure the children in your care know they can talk to you if they feel worried, scared or see something that upsets them. If they are already aware of this character it can help to reassure them that it is not real. 

Helpful Resources:

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The Trusted Adult video explains who young people might speak to and includes examples of trusted adults, charities and organisations.

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Use our video for guidance and advice around constructing conversations about the online world with the children in your care.

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