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Celebrating Halloween Safely during COVID-19

Posted on Oct 26, 2020

Many parents are concerned about the Halloween traditions and wondering if it’s safe to send their kids trick or treating this year. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Patrick Mularoni, M.D., an Emergency Center and sports medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, offers advice.

With Halloween in front of us, many parents are struggling because they know that things should be different in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we still be celebrating Halloween?

Absolutely. Every family will need to make decisions about which of the Halloween traditions they celebrate this year but as far as I am concerned we should let kids have some fun this holiday. When thinking about the holiday, parents should try to estimate and balance the risks of various options. 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 of my favorites such as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie BrownSpookley the Square Pumpkin, and for the older kids, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

What about typical trick or treat activities? 

This is a hard question, and I know that many families are trying to decide if they can do it safely. There is increased risk of virus transmission in large groups or from seeing many different people. 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 or 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 are very risky, and it will be hard to adhere to safe physical distancing.Plan to go out in small groups, wear masks and maintain physical distancing while trick or treating, and carry hand sanitizer with you to use often along the way.

For those who hand out treats, try to do this as 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. 

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.

If you choose to trick or treat though, the costume must include a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that a classic scary mask made of plastic or rubber is not enough. Ensure that kids wear an actual two-layer fabric or medical grade mask like most children are wearing to school these days. So, yes, children should enjoy and show off their costume but should make sure to wear a protective face covering if they are going out trick or treating.

So we have covered the new COVID-19 precautions. 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 Saturday 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.
  • Last but not least … enjoy that candy in moderation and make sure that the little ones are brushing those teeth before bedtime. Even after parents suggest slowing down on gobbling up all the candy, I am sure that many of us will sleep in on Sunday morning and wake up to find a sugared-up kid with a pile of wrappers nearby. 

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 each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Patrick Mularoni, M.D.

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