Trick or treat? COVID-19 considerations to help parents plan a healthy Halloween

Norwalk Hospital
COVID-19 and Halloween

By Laurie Brentlinger, Assistant Vice President of Infection Control and Prevention, Nuvance Health

Summary:

  • Halloween may look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to participate in Halloween activities should be based on the level of risk of each activity, as well as circumstances and risk factors of each child and family.
  • Families should ask themselves if their kids can celebrate while following public health guidelines and what adjustments or alternative activities can provide a safe, fun Halloween experience.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly upended most aspects of our lives this year. Now as we go into the holiday season, many parents may be wondering how to preserve the fun of Halloween while keeping their kids and families safe from COVID-19. Trick-or-treating, classroom parties, and other traditional Halloween festivities may be different and require a bit more planning this year, including following health guidelines established by communities, public health officials, and schools. Here are health questions to help parents decide what Halloween activities are safe for their kids.

Can kids celebrate while following public health guidelines?

Wearing a mask, practicing proper hand hygiene, and maintaining social distancing reduces your chances of COVID-19 infection. When it comes to the risks of COVID-19 transmission, research has shown that indoor settings are riskier than outdoor environments; gathering in large groups is riskier than in small groups, and prolonged close contact — being within six feet of others for more than 15 minutes — is riskier than brief contact.

Based on the previous criteria, trick-or-treating is a low-risk activity because it’s outdoors and involves only brief contact with others. However, trick-or-treating could become riskier if kids gather in large groups or have prolonged close contact with others.

Indoor Halloween parties are a higher-risk activity due to close and prolonged contact of partygoers, and shared food and beverages would further increase COVID-19 infection risks.

Class parties at school pose few additional risks when compared to the risks of regular school attendance, providing that the kids avoid sharing food or supplies and follow school rules for social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands.

Here are specific questions you can ask to determine the level of risk for traditional Halloween activities:

  • Will my child be able to wear a mask?
  • Will others be wearing masks?
  • Will my child be able to easily wash or sanitize their hands?
  • Will my child be able to maintain a safe distance from others?
  • Will there be any shared food or beverages?
  • Will food items be store-bought and individually packaged, instead of homemade?
  • Will there be any shared materials, such as game pieces or craft supplies?
  • Will any activities cause exposure to respiratory droplets, such as bobbing for apples?
  • Will my child come into contact with any non-household members? If so, how many?
  • Will contact with non-household members be prolonged or brief?

What are your child’s personal, family, and community risk factors?

Older adults and people who have certain health conditions — including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system, obesity, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease — are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and experiencing COVID-19 complications.

When deciding if your child should participate in Halloween activities, consider if they’re at high risk for COVID-19 complications and whether they will be able to take appropriate steps to stay safe. Here are other questions to consider:

  • Will my child be able to comply with safety rules?
  • Will my child be able to quarantine at home if they become ill or are exposed to someone who has COVID-19?
  • Are there any high-risk household members that could be affected by a potential exposure?
  • What are the COVID-19 transmission rates in my community?
  • What are the COVID-19 transmission rates in my child’s school?

Are adjustments or alternate activities an option?

In this pandemic world, all activities outside the home carry some level of risk for COVID-19 infection — and Halloween fun is no exception. However, you may be able to take steps to create an enjoyable Halloween experience for your kids while lowering COVID-19 risks.

Consider ways that you might be able to minimize contact between your child and others, such as leaving individually wrapped candy on the doorstep, limiting the number of houses for trick-or-treating, or avoiding groups of families/kids. Would a pumpkin-picking outing be an acceptable substitute for your annual Halloween party? Could you plan to only trick-or-treat at the homes of a few friends or family members?

Helpful information: CDC guidelines for holiday celebrations during the pandemic

The bottom line: The decision to participate in Halloween activities should be based on the risk factors and comfort level of each child and family. Families should consider whether kids can celebrate while following safety guidelines and whether adjustments or alternative activities that lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission are an acceptable option.

CONTACT
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations
(203) 739 7478 | Amy.Forni@nuvancehealth.org