Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant
Each year more than 40 million children between ages 5 and 14 go trick-or-treating on Halloween. This year, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep yourself and your little ones safe.
Of course, the safest option is to stay home to avoid the risk of exposure to the virus. But if you do decide to take your kiddos trick-or-treating, here are several important safety tips to consider.
1. Wear an adequate face covering
While many Halloween costumes include a mask, please note that costume masks do not meet the criteria of the face coverings recommended by the CDC that lower the risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19. It’s recommended that everyone over age 2 wear a face-covering whenever they leave the home. The face-covering should be made of at least 2 layers of fabric, and should cover the nose and mouth without any gaps on the side.
Since wearing a costume mask on top of a face mask can cause breathing issues, the CDC recommends forgoing the costume mask and wearing a costume-themed cloth mask instead.
2. Use hand sanitizer frequently
Trick-or-treating inevitably involves touching hard surfaces like handrails, doorbells, and candy containers. It can also entail contact with the hands of the people who are handing out candy. So it’s important to sanitize kids’ hands frequently when they’re trick-or-treating, using a hand sanitizer that is FDA-approved and contains at least 60% alcohol.
It’s appropriate to teach older children how to correctly apply hand sanitizer themselves. For younger children, it’s recommended that parents apply the hand sanitizer, and keep the bottle out of the child’s reach, since hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning if it’s ingested.
3. Consider not touching the candy for 72 hours
We know it’s tempting to dive into the candy bucket as soon as possible. However, since the COVID-19 virus has been known to live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, consider putting the candy out of reach for 3 days after it’s been collected to give adequate time for any viral particles on the candy wrappers to become inactive.
If you do break into the candy stash sooner than 72 hours, we recommend parents be the ones to unwrap the candy and give it to their children, making sure the candy doesn’t touch the outer surface of the wrapper as it’s opened.
4. Practice social distancing
With tens of millions of kids collecting candy on Halloween, the streets and sidewalks can be quite crowded! But since we’re still seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever to practice social distancing, staying 6 feet away from anyone who’s not a member of your household whenever possible.
Consider trick-or-treating at off-peak hours to decrease your exposure to other people. You can also ask homes in your neighborhood to leave individual bags of candy outside, spaced 6 feet apart, so your child can collect candy at a safe social distance from the members of that household and other trick-or-treaters.
5. Take traffic safety precautions
Unfortunately, twice as many children are hit by cars from 4-10 p.m. on Halloween than any other time of the year. With more families trying to practice social distancing while trick-or-treating this year, the number of cars on the road is likely to increase, which means there’s an increased risk of a traffic-related injury.
To keep your child as safe as possible, consider taking them trick-or-treating during daylight hours, add reflective strips to their costume, use well-lit sidewalks, and cross the street in designated crosswalks.
All GoHealth Urgent Care centers are open on Halloween and the morning after for any post-Halloween "BOO-boos" or ScAaArYyY illnesses. Save your spot online or simply walk in.