Halloween is approaching, and the usual safety concerns are increased further by worries about children (or candy givers) catching or spreading COVID-19. In some cases, Halloween activities may have to be canceled or modified, although the largest risk is probably from adult parties where alcohol is involved.
Some children are unhappy; will COVID-19 mean no trick-or-treating?
Some of the tips in this article are for every year, but others are specific to the elevated risks of contagious disease. Whether trick-or-treating is safe this year may well depend on where you are, and there are always alternatives. Here are some safety tips:
- Don’t use colored contact lenses that you ordered online. All contact lenses require a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, the CDC has been recommending that regular contact lens wearers switch to glasses as COVID can cause conjunctivitis. So, this year it might be best to skip the colored lenses altogether.
- Incorporate a mask or face covering into the costume. In normal years, masks are generally not recommended for young children, but this year it’s worth considering.
- Make sure that you or your child can still see out of the costume. Be particularly careful with heavy wigs and ghost costumes.
- If trick or treating goes after dark, make sure to add reflective tape to the costume and trick-or-treat bag. Kids get hit by cars on Halloween more than any other night of the year.
- If you or an older child are wearing high heels as part of a costume and don’t normally wear them, practice first (and make sure any costume shoes are properly broken in).
- Keep props short and flexible and don’t carry realistic fake firearms. Any fake firearms should be visibly blazed with orange. Wands, swords, etc, should be short.
- Test the costume first to check for vision issues and tripping hazards.
- Choose flame retardant/resistant costumes if buying.
- For toddlers and babies have more than one costume, just in case they have an accident or throw up on it.
If you are still going to give out candy, then this year you should be particularly careful. Unwrapped candy and home made treats should not be given out to strangers because of the risk of contamination. Instead, give out wrapped candy in its original container. Other tips:
- Don’t only give out chocolate and keep chocolate candy separate from non-chocolate candy. Chocolate allergies are common.
- Don’t give out candy containing nuts or peanuts.
- Have non-edible alternatives such as stickers and crayons. This year, giving out non-edible treats may be better.
For trick or treating, plan for social distancing, or for alternatives. Some things to consider:
- Stay outside. Give out the candy from your porch rather than inside.
- For your own kids, buy candy and do a candy scavenger hunt in the house and yard.
- Drop small gift bags of candy on your neighbors’ porches instead of giving it out. This doesn’t have the joy of watching the little ghouls and goblins, but might satisfy that generous urge.
- Put a bowl or pumpkin of candy at the end of your driveway with some hand sanitizer and watch from the porch.
- Arrange for a contact-free neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt which might include candy, decorations, and photo opportunities.
- Set up drive-by trick-or-treating. Kids can stay in their yards in costume and neighbors gently toss candy out of their windows as they drive past.
- Throw a socially distanced costume parade instead. Put treats where kids can pick them up on the way. (Best to do this during daylight)
- Use a candy grabber so you can hand candy out without getting as close to the kids.
- Do a costume parade on a set route instead. Kids get a bag of mixed candy at the end of the route. You can include a costume photo contest with divisions for adults, kids of various ages, and pets. You can even do treat bags for the adults.
- Trunk-or-treating may be a safer option. Kids can collect their treats without getting too close to their neighbors.
- No matter what you might do, wear a mask. There are plenty of spooky and Halloween-ish masks out there or you can get a plain one and decorate it yourself. Everyone two or older should be wearing a mask.
As every year, you should:
- Check the candy when the kids get home and not allow them to eat treats until they have been checked. Kids may inadvertently pick up candy they are allergic to, unwrapped candy, or something which is spoiled.
- Make sure that kids don’t eat all the candy on the 31st. Encourage them to ration it and spread it out.
- Keep pets properly restrained. Bear in mind that dogs can get COVID-19, albeit rarely, and a few have even died from it, so don’t allow your dog to greet trick-or-treaters this year.
- Have kids carry flashlights so they can see properly.
- Remove leaves and trip hazards from your yard if you have kids coming up to the porch.
- Plan routes ahead of time.
- Take off masks that cover eyes before crossing the street.
- Not approach houses that don’t have their lights on.
- Watch out for traffic. Again, the biggest danger on Halloween is not and never has been bad candy, poisoned candy, or candy with weed in it (nobody is going to give that out to your kids for free), but road traffic accidents. If you must drive on October 31, assume that kids will be out trick or treating regardless of local rules or the state of the pandemic and drive accordingly.
- Supervise children under 12. Children 12 and older should be able to go out on their own. (Don’t let your 12 year old take out your 6 year old either). Also check local ordinances; some places make it illegal for older children to engage in trick or treating.
Parties with alcohol are particularly dangerous for spreading COVID-19; if you’re an adult who uses Halloween as an excuse to party, consider a Zoom party instead. Pass out cocktail recipes beforehand and learn to make your own spooky drinks. Here are some alternatives to traditional parties:
- A Halloween watch party. At home, you can get your kids’ favorite scary movies, make some Halloween treats, and turn off the lights. For older kids and adults, set up an online watch party. Make sure to plan in advance so everyone has the movie(s). Watch parties using online chat so people can discuss…or boo the screen…are awesome.
- Socially distanced craft contests. Over Zoom, you can do pumpkin carving, painting, or mask decorating contests. For the last, get plain cloth fake masks and have fun with glitter, sequins, dye, etc. (However, bear in mind that masks need to be watched; if you use a lot of sequins you may not be able to use it as a mask, but it could still be fun). Pumpkin carving should always be done by adults; painting is a good alternative for kids.
If you do throw a traditional party, limit it to those in your regular bubble and/or have it outside. Transmission risk is lower outdoors and it is easier to socially distance.
Hit the Road
Many pumpkin patches are still open, but they might be running at limited capacity. Call ahead and make a reservation.
Then seek out local drive through Halloween options. Drive-in movie theaters have been loving the pandemic and some are surely to pull out spooky classics. Haunted roads are another thing…and something your neighborhood might be able to set up.
Or just find out which of your neighbors are going to be going all out on Halloween decorations. Maybe this is the year to go all out on them yourself.
Another option is virtual haunted houses, which are likely to be very much a thing this year.
Other Safety Tips
Here are a few other Halloween safety tips to remember:
- Candles in pumpkins look pretty, but consider a flashlight, glow stick or electronic candle instead. Votive candles or tea lights are safer than naked candles.
- Never leave candlelit pumpkins unattended.
- Check your outdoor lights and replace any burned out bulbs.
- Don’t use activated charcoal to make black drinks or food. Activated charcoal is not food and is used to absorb toxins in poison treatment. It will do the same to any medicine you are taking and may reduce nutrition from food eaten close to it. Use black food coloring or food safe dye instead.
Halloween is likely to look different this year, although it won’t be “canceled.” Even if traditional trick-or-treating proves unsafe, there are plenty of options to celebrate a safe Halloween.
Just remember to wear a mask, keep a safe distance, and watch out when crossing the street. This is the year to decorate your home inside and out, find socially-distanced parties and events, and take lots of costume selfies! With a bit of creativity, Halloween can be as fun and safe as ever for all ages.