Experiencing the community joys of Halloween trick or treating, fun costumes, and colorful decorations – all while being out and about in the crisp, fall air – has become a favorite time of the year for most!! And while every year there are safety points, this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am joining with health officials in underscoring specific warnings when it comes to protecting your health and this year’s Halloween events. Infectious disease experts have highlighted the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in that:
- Social distancing is going to be very difficult
- Being in crowds of children and adults in close proximity that you are not interacting with on a regular basis
- Sharing candy bowls or getting anything that is being touched by someone else
Good news!! – There are safe options and fun alternatives!!
Wearing a face mask is one of the best methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A costume mask is not a substitute for a face mask, unless it is made of 2 or more layers of breathable fabric covering both the mouth and nose. Too, don’t wear a costume mask over a cloth mask – it can be dangerous, making it hard to breathe. Creative ways to don your mask include wearing a Halloween-themed cloth mask, or honor frontline workers by dressing up as them and your mask is part of your costume.
As an outdoor activity, it can pose less risk than indoor gatherings—when managed safely by wearing a face mask at all times and socially distancing at least 6 feet away from others. Avoid eating candy along the way (until the wrapping is reviewed and sanitized). When a group is at a door, wait until they leave before approaching. Don’t linger at a house longer than needed. Carry hand-sanitizer/wipes, cleaning hands regularly for 20 seconds with at least 60% alcohol. Anything less than that may not work as well for germs and could merely reduce the growth rather than kill germs outright.
Some community organizations/retailers/groups are hosting parking lot or drive-through events. If you do participate, wear an appropriate face mask while social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this a high-risk activity for COVID-19 – stay vigilant if you decide to attend.
Avoid any multiple hands in one container (with people reaching in and picking out their treats). Consider tongs to remove candy from a bowl and drop into a bag. Too, ensure candy is individually wrapped. Again, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands frequently (whether the giver or receiver of treats). Also consider “one-way” trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodies or bags are lined-up to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as safely at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard).
Make sure everyone washes their hands, and that candy wrappers are wiped down with a disinfectant wipe before touching and eating anything. If an edible treat is not individually wrapped or torn, throw it away.
Parties, Haunted Houses, Hayrides, Corn Mazes
Hosting or attending parties/events that involve people outside your household are discouraged. If you engage, you may decrease your risk by keeping it small, wearing proper face masks, social distancing (even when eating), and avoiding any no-mask parties/events.
Added Risk Assessment
While everyone is at some risk in every age group when out in public, if you have medical conditions that can increase your risk for severe complications from COVID-19 (e.g., diabetes, 65 years of age or older, hypertension, obesity), know that handing out candy to trick-or-treaters or being at events can put you at greater risk of getting infected. Consider hanging a note on your door to let people know you are not giving out candy while participating in low risk activities (see below).
The CDC has identified lower risk activities as safe alternatives:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them, or outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorate your home, bake or prepare special, fun recipes with family
- Do a Halloween scavenger hunt (rather than going house-to-house) with Halloween-themed objects and candy to look for with your household members in or around your home rather than going house-to-house
- Host a virtual Halloween costume contest
- Enjoy a Halloween movie or game night
- Set-up different stations at home (indoors and outdoors) to paint pumpkins or decorate cupcakes/cookies
Plan now for ways to safely experience the joys of this special time of the year and make sure to follow local ordinances – have fun!!
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.