Is Trick-or-Treating Safe Amid the COVID Pandemic? We Asked a Pediatrician For Advice

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Like most events and holidays that have taken place amid the COVID pandemic, Halloween is going to look a lot different this year. Obviously, kids trick or treat outside, which may make parents more inclined to let their children go door to door. Given the nature of the virus, parents are likely beginning to wonder what safety measures they should take this year.

“There’s a whole spectrum of things to consider,” said Dr. Jean Moorjani, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital in Florida. “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.”

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently ranked Halloween activities by risk, and unfortunately, traditional trick-or-treating is off the table this year.

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 before letting the kids load up on sweets.

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Is It Safe to Hand Out Candy This Year?

As much as you may want to hand out candy with the kiddos this year, it’s not recommended. Per the CDC, “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.

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Is It Safe to Leave a Bowl of Candy Out This Year?

If your family lives in an area that has a five percent or less [positivity] rate, leaving out a bowl of candy is OK. Because COVID-19 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.

“It’s really just the timing of Halloween given it’s at the end of October,” Dr. Lambert told POPSUGAR. “We’re going into the fall with between 30,000 and 40,000 new cases per day in the US, so we can expect a ‘seasonality’ with COVID-19 – as I’ve started calling it – and that takes into effect how the virus behaves in colder weather and how humans behave in colder weather. In general, the risk has to do with where Halloween falls on the calendar. We’re going to be on the steep part of the curve again [at that point].”

If you want to get everyone in on the action, Dr. Moorjani suggested having people sit outside to watch the trick-or-treaters. “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!”

Additionally, some parents are considering having a “reverse drive-by” Halloween setup. “So the kids stand in their front yards in their costumes with an adult present,” explained Dr. Moorjani. “Then other adults in the neighborhood drive by and then toss candy onto the lawn.” Honestly, that sounds pretty freakin’ fun!

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Should Kids Wear Gloves on Halloween?

While parents should certainly have their kids wear face masks while collecting candy, they can skip the gloves this year. “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,” advised Dr. Moorjani. “It’s not recommended in this setting.”

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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,” explained Dr. Moorjani. “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 your kids.”

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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 are 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 kids 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!”

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