With Halloween in front of us, many parents are struggling because of uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Patrick Mularoni, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital answers the question that parents want to know: “Should we be celebrating Halloween this year?
The answer is — absolutely! Every family will need to make decisions about which of the Halloween traditions they celebrate this year, but Mularoni advises letting the kids have some fun this holiday. When thinking about the holiday, parents should try to estimate and balance the risks of various options. Families need to consider their vaccination status and other factors including underlying medical conditions when making these decisions.
The traditions that are safest are those that can involve activities at home such as carving pumpkins, baking pumpkin seeds and decorating the house. There are great Halloween-related shows that can be streamed including some favorites such as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; Spookley the Square Pumpkin; and for the older kids, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
What about typical trick or treat activities?
Many families are trying to decide if they can do it safely this year. We know that outdoor activity has proven to be safer than indoor activities, but there is increased risk of virus transmission any time you are in a large group. To avoid encountering large groups on Halloween night, I would suggest trick or treating close to home rather than going to Trunk or Treat parties especially if those are being held indoors.
You might also want to avoid heading to one of the trick or treating streets or neighborhoods that draw huge crowds each year. Although these larger events are fun and have become a tradition for many families, large gatherings carry higher risks and in some cases, it may be more difficult to adhere to safe physical distancing. Plan to go out in small groups. Unvaccinated children should wear masks according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and maintain physical distancing while trick or treating,
For those who hand out treats, you still should consider a touchless system. Some people have created genius contraptions to shoot candy through tubes and other tricks, but this can be as simple as spreading the candy across a table and allowing the children to pick a candy that has been spaced across the display by an adult with clean hands. This year we still have many little ghouls and goblins who are under 12 and haven’t been cleared for vaccination.
Should costumes be different this year?
The answer is yes and no. I think that all kids who want to dress up should get a chance to. At home, you can take pictures and share them with family and friends, possibly even setting up a Zoom party where kids can show off the costume to family and friends.
When trick or treating, the safest option is to put your child in a mask. The CDC reminds us that a classic scary mask made of plastic or rubber is not the same as an actual two-layer fabric or medical grade mask like many children are wearing to school these days. So, yes, children should enjoy and show off their costume and the safest practice is to wear a protective face covering if they are going out trick or treating.
What are your other top safety tips for families this Halloween?
- Be careful in the road. This goes for pedestrians and drivers. With the holiday on a Sunday this year, more people will be out and about so please remember to drive slowly during trick or treat times. It’s a good idea to have the little ghosts and goblins carry a flashlight so they can be seen more easily by cars.
- Resist the urge to eat candy before returning home from trick or treating. It should be a rule to not snack while trick or treating. This will allow the kids to clean their hands before eating and will allow mom and dad to inspect the candy before it is opened.
- Finally … enjoy that candy in moderation and make sure that the little ones are brushing those teeth before bedtime. Even after, parents should suggest slowing down on gobbling up all the candy before heading off to school on Monday.
- No matter what you do this year please enjoy this holiday as a family and stay safe.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Patrick Mularoni, M.D., or download our free Pocket Doc app, which features a symptom checker, parenting advice and other tools for staying in touch with us.