Published on October 27, 2020

Essentia Health urges caution, safety this Halloween

Trick-or-treating is sure to be much trickier this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Halloween will present myriad challenges as families determine how best to celebrate the social, sugary holiday.

“Halloween doesn’t need to end just because we are in a pandemic, but it does need to be different,” said Dr. Jonathan KenKnight, a pediatrician at Essentia Health.

Dr. KenKnight advises people to plan ahead. Consider outdoor activities wherein ample social distancing is possible. Be sure to wear a mask with your costume. Avoid large gatherings such as costume parties and haunted houses, and stay home if you don’t feel well. If you are hosting or attending an indoor get-together, keep it small (10 people or fewer); wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose; set up seating ahead of time that allows for space between people; minimize sharing items with people not in your household; open windows and/or doors for better air flow; and maintain a list of attendees in case one of them has or contracts COVID-19.

Traditional trick-or-treating is considered a high-risk activity by the Minnesota Department of Health. If you plan to give out treats, Dr. KenKnight suggests sitting outside while wearing a mask and having pre-packaged goodie bags to hand out, rather than having kids reach into a bowl for candy. Emphasize social distancing and have hand sanitizer available.

Dr. KenKnight also says it’s a good idea to thoroughly wipe down your child’s candy after returning home, and then let it sit for a couple days. Frequent hand-washing is encouraged.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations for a safe Halloween:

  • Meet with friends virtually and show off costumes. Have fun with it! In cold climates, this may be the first time your child can wear a costume that isn’t buried under a parka.
  • When planning a costume, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats. If children plan to use their cloth face coverings as part of their costume, they should not paint them, as some paints contain toxins.
  • Celebrate with a movie night and dress as your favorite characters. Do this as a family at home or consider letting your child watch with their friends while video chatting, with everyone starting the movie at the same time.
  • Look for community events focused on safe ways to have fun, such as programs offered by a park district, arboretum, pumpkin patch, zoo or other outdoor venue in your area.
  • Decorate pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers, then parents can do the cutting.
  • If children are outdoors, consider marking their costumes with reflective tape. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame. Remind children to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them. Remind them also to wash hands really well when you return home.
  • Consider offering non-edible goodies to friends and family. Halloween is one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Food Allergy Research & Education’s Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safe trick-or-treating options for food-allergic children and suggests handing out non-food items. Make sure the items do not pose choking hazards for young children.

The Minnesota Department of Health reminds everyone that “anytime you gather with people you do not live with, the risk of infection increases for everyone.” As cases of COVID-19 increase throughout our communities, please be safe and smart this Halloween.

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