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Should Halloween Be Canceled This Year?

child halloween covid
Hansa Bhargava, MD - Blogs
By Hansa D. Bhargava, MDBoard-certified pediatricianOctober 9, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

With COVID-19 still being a very real danger, many parents have been asking me what we should do about trick-or-treating this year? Do we have to cancel Halloween?

The short answer is no -- we do not need to cancel Halloween. But we do need to do it safely.

As I’m sure you’ve heard many times by now, COVID-19 can be very contagious. We can spread it through coughing, sneezing, singing, and even talking. It may also be spread by touching a surface where droplets have landed. All of this makes the traditional form of Halloween a dangerous proposition.

Usually, when kids go trick-or-treating, they cluster in groups, excited and chatty, as they go door to door for candy. This close proximity can increase risk of transmitting the virus. If someone is contagious, they could potentially infect others by breathing or talking, or even the touching other candy in the bowl or container that it is being offered in. As the CDC recently directed, it’s just not a good idea to do Halloween the “regular” way.

But this doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate Halloween at all. In fact, with social isolation, schools online, and families feeling stressed with the limitations of this new “normal,” we actually need to have these fun, joyful events to look forward to. I did a quick survey on Twitter, aimed at doctors and nurses, asking how they felt about celebrating Halloween. The majority felt that we could approach the holiday in different ways that are still fun, but more safe.

Some ideas for a safe and fun Halloween:

  • Celebrate at home with decorations, costumes, and perhaps one or two friends (either outside or masked inside), watching scary movies and having some “treats.”
  • Organize a socially distanced “parade” with a few families. It could be on the street where you live or in a parking lot. At the end of the parade, one assigned masked parent could drop individually packaged treats into each child’s bag
  • Throw a socially distanced scavenger hunt where families are apart but can look for a list of “scary” things in a neighborhood.
  • Dress your little ones up and have them trick-or-treat in your home, going from room to room. Parents could dress up too! (I loved this one!)

However you celebrate, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use two-layered cloth masks to protect little faces. You can decorate these and make them “Halloween masks,” but don’t replace them with the plastic costume masks.
  • Remind kids to stay far apart from other children who aren’t in their “bubble.”
  • Remember to wash hands well before eating any treats at all.
  • Follow the usual tips for a safe Halloween: discard any unwrapped candy, and try to keep the kids from overeating their loot.

Halloween is an exciting and fun holiday. We CAN celebrate it and have our kids look forward to it. It will just look a bit different this year, with masks and social distancing, but we can still enjoy our little ghosts and goblins!



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About the Author
Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Hansa Bhargava, MD, is Chief Medical Officer at Medscape Education and a board-certified pediatrician. She is the author of Building Happier Kids: Stress-busting Tools for Parents. With expertise in parenting, mental health, and pregnancy, she has helped develop the WebMD Baby App and WebMD Pregnancy App. A regular contributor to Forbes, she is frequently interviewed by major news outlets on issues of health and well-being in children. In addition to her work at Medscape Education, she has collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and is an elected executive member of the AAP Committee on Communications and Media.

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