Is Trick-or-Treating Safe Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic? We Asked a Pediatrician For Advice
Like most events and holidays that have taken place amid the COVID pandemic, this year's Halloween celebrations should come with their modifications. Obviously, kids trick-or-treat outside, which may make you feel more inclined to let your children go door to door, but given the nature of the virus and the spread of the Delta variant, there are several safety measures you should take this year.
"There's a whole spectrum of things to consider," Dr. Jean Moorjani, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital in Florida, said ahead of last year's holiday. "The most important thing is that families decide together what level of risk they're OK with this Halloween. For example, are you OK with people you don't know knocking on your door? My family doesn't know 90 percent of the people that come to our door on a typical Halloween night! So it's thinking about things like that."
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked Halloween activities by risk, and traditional trick-or-treating was considered off the table. Although the CDC hasn't released guidelines for Halloween 2021 and some adults and children over 12 are now fully vaccinated, trick-or-treating will still come with its risks for unvaccinated individuals, including young children, due to the highly transmissible variant.
If making the most of Halloween is at the top of your family's to-do list, read on to see what you should be aware of ahead of the holiday.
Is It Safe to Hand Out Candy This Year?
As much as you may want to hand out candy with the kiddos, it wasn't recommended last year. It's yet unclear if it will be advised this October, but per the CDC's 2020 guidelines, "participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door" is considered to be a high-risk activity, as doing so can easily spread germs. If you want to avoid high-risk scenarios, steer clear of homes in which someone is handing candy directly to trick-or-treaters. Additionally, families should refrain from participating in trunk-or-treats, where candy is handed out from trunks of cars in parking lots.
Is It Safe to Leave Out a Bowl of Candy This Year?
Last year, it was noted that if your family lives in an area that had a five percent or less positivity rate, leaving out a bowl of candy was OK, so that seems a good rule to follow again. However, because COVID is so contagious and the weather typically begins to get more brisk at the end of October, Dr. Matt Lambert, an emergency medicine physician and the chief medical information officer for the HCI Group, said to avoid handing out candy directly to children, even with a low positivity rate.
"It's really just the timing of Halloween given it's at the end of October," Dr. Lambert told POPSUGAR of the virus's seasonality. While last year, we approached fall with between 30,000 and 40,000 new cases per day in the US, the numbers are even higher now, with a 146,790 seven-day average of new cases as of Sept. 11.
If you want to get everyone in on the action while keeping your distance, Dr. Moorjani suggested having people sit outside to watch the trick-or-treaters walk through the neighborhood. "The family can hang out in the driveway with chairs and set up a table that's further away with a bowl of candy and some sanitizer," she said. "Of course, you'll want to ensure each piece is individually wrapped!"
Last fall, some parents considered having a "reverse drive-by" Halloween setup. "The kids stand in their front yards in their costumes with an adult present," Dr. Moorjani explained. "Then other adults in the neighborhood drive by and then toss candy onto the lawn." Honestly, that sounds pretty freakin' fun!
Should Kids Wear Gloves on Halloween?
While parents should certainly have their kids wear face masks while collecting candy, they can skip the gloves. "Just do your best, wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer before you take the candy," said Dr. Moorjani, who explained that gloves work best when you can change them regularly. "I don't think there's a lot of good advice to support wearing gloves. When I'm in the hospital and seeing patients, I do wear gloves. I wash my hands, I put on gloves, and I examine patients. As soon as I'm done seeing that one patient, I take my gloves off, and then I wash my hands."
In most cases, people who wear gloves in public rarely change them, which defeats the purpose of wearing them in the first place. "If they're not washing or changing their gloves, they're just really moving germs around," Dr. Moorjani advised. "It's not recommended in this setting."
Should Parents Sanitize Their Kids' Halloween Candy?
When the pandemic first began, it wasn't unusual to see people sanitizing their packages and groceries. However, this practice may not be necessary when it comes to your kids' Halloween candy. "The transmission of the coronavirus on surfaces is low," Dr. Moorjani explained. "If you feel really inclined to sanitize your children's Halloween candy, go for it! However, if you're one of those people who feels the need to seriously sanitize everything, it may be best to buy your own Halloween candy and just give it to your kids."
What Should Parents Bring When Taking Their Kids Trick-or-Treating?
Of course, parents who take their children trick-or-treating should bring hand sanitizer and require their little ones to wear masks. And while taking extra precautions amid the pandemic is naturally top of mind, Dr. Moorjani wants to remind people about the other safety precautions they should consider.
"A lot of us are used to wearing masks already, so maybe this Halloween, kids can decorate one of their masks and have that be a part of their costume," she said. "Parents should also bring flashlights, glow sticks, or any reflective material, so that they're visible if they're trick-or-treating after dark. Halloween is also a great time to remind families about getting their flu shots!"