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Halloween and COVID-19: Tips to celebrate the holidays safely amid the pandemic

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halloween

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As a young child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I remember dressing up in my favorite costume and trick-or-treating with my brother and our parents. My brother and I were excited to return home with a basket filled with candy. When we got home, we would dump our candy, organize it, and barter for trade! We grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, and the temperatures (brr!) were usually in the 20s or 30s on Halloween night. So, it was always interesting to find a costume that went well with a snow suit under it to keep warm. I cherish these memories, sweeter than Halloween candy!

Years later, I still enjoy Halloween and dressing up in creative costumes each year. In fact, when I was a pediatric resident, I dressed up as Ms. Frizzle, a fictional elementary school teacher featured in The Magic School Bus, where she takes her class on field trips to the solar system and other fascinating places. My peers crowned me as the 2018 Residency Halloween Costume Contest Champion. So, I guess you can say – as an adult – I’m still a big kid at heart when it comes to Halloween celebrations. 

As a pediatrician for Texas Children’s Pediatrics, I want to make sure our children and families have fun celebrating Halloween – and other holidays this season – while staying healthy and safe. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us had to think about celebrations differently and more creatively while keeping everyone’s safety top of mind. Given the nature of the COVID-19 virus, and the spread of the Delta Variant, it’s important not to let our guard down this year. We need to keep trick-or-treating and other Halloween traditions safe, especially for children who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

So, what are some ways to keep you and your family safe while celebrating this holiday season? While we’ve heard these safety tips before – wear your mask, practice safe social distancing and wash your hands regularly – they are still important to follow to lower the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19. The best way to protect families and others is to get vaccinated if you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve learned so much since the pandemic began. We need to continue to follow these actions below and be mindful of keeping social activities small and outdoors whenever possible.

Trick-or-Treating
If you plan to take your children trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, make sure you wear face masks (regardless of vaccination status) and observe safe social distancing. Remember, a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth one to protect against COVID-19 transmission. If you are handing out candy, you should consider a contactless way of doing it. Some families have created candy-delivering chutes to distribute goodies. Another idea is to hand out individual bags of treats to each child or place the bags on a table for children to pick up one at a time, instead of kids having to reach into a communal candy bowl.

Social gatherings
If you plan to host a social gathering like a costume party, keep it small and on a shorter time frame (the fewer people and shorter the time, the safer it is). It’s important that you wear your face mask and practice social distancing. If you plan to attend a community event, avoid big crowds and clustering, and follow safe distance rules (6 feet apart) even when outdoors. And, if you are not feeling well, stay home.

Celebrating at home
Celebrating Halloween in the comfort of your home can be fun and exciting, too! There are many creative things you can do to bond with your family and create traditions and memories to last a lifetime! 

Here are a few creative ideas to consider:
•    Host a virtual costume contest or party with friends and family (and pets!)
•    Arrange a spooky movie night with popcorn, drinks and plenty of candy. 
•    Participate in festive activities such as baking and decorating Halloween cookies, carving pumpkins, or whipping up a Halloween themed spooky dinner (Here are great recipe ideas)
•    Trick-or-treat inside your home by hiding candy for your kids to find. 
•    Create a haunted house or fun house at home with sensory stations. While blindfolded or eyes closed, feel grapes in yogurt as eyeballs, spaghetti as worms; taste candy and guess what kind it is; listen to sound clips of bats flying, spiders crawling, etc. and guess what critters they are)
•    Wrap lollipops in a tissue to make a ghost and do a "ghost hunt" in the house and/or yard, or my personal favorite: "Boo" your neighbors by secretly leaving some goodies with a Boo sign and instructions on a neighbor's doorstep. The person who receives the Boo is asked to Boo others. 

I hope you all have a spooktacular and safe Halloween!  And speaking of Halloween, now is the perfect time to get your flu shot. With flu season here, it’s important for anyone over 6 months of age to get their annual flu shot. Click here to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.