Autumn is here, kicking off the holiday season with Halloween and its main event: trick-or-treating. However, like last year, some families may be wondering whether it’s safe to visit houses and gather treats.
“The last year and a half has been a stressful time for many,” says Dr. Chitra Safaya, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “The negative impacts of social isolation, among other challenges, may have taken a mental and physical toll, but we have also made remarkable strides with vaccinations and successful treatments against COVID-19. We are moving forward in the right direction, but still need to be cautious, even again this Halloween, since history has told us that COVID-19 will bounce back.”
Understanding that Halloween is an important part of the year for children, Dr. Safaya suggests they enjoy the fun of trick-or-treating outdoors.
“Children who are vaccinated should be able to safely enjoy Halloween activities outdoors,” says Dr. Safaya. “For children ineligible for the vaccine or who are unvaccinated, I would strongly urge their parents and/or caregivers in the household to be vaccinated. Having the adult household members vaccinated adds a degree of protection for themselves and their families.”
Although we may see more trick-or-treaters out and about this year, Dr. Safaya still recommends contactless candy distribution.
“Halloween traditionally involves many people dipping hands in a common candy pot, which is a perfect recipe for further spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Chitra Safaya. “Therefore, although we are slowly easing back into traditional trick-or-treating activities, I would still practice certain safety measures since we are not completely out of the woods yet.”
Children and teens going from residence to residence, as well as anyone who hands out treats, are still at risk for spreading the coronavirus. But there are different ways to safely celebrate the spookiest time of year.
5 ways to celebrate Halloween without trick-or-treating
“For those who prefer to not participate in traditional trick-or-treating this year, there are many great ideas floating around the internet for alternative Halloween celebrations,” says Dr. Safaya. Here are a few suggestions:
- Host a virtual pumpkin-carving party or mask-decorating contest.
- Have a home scavenger hunt by hiding Halloween candy around the house for children to find.
- Decorate a Halloween-themed holiday tree.
- Watch scary movies on a projector outdoors with family.
- Get creative by making Halloween house décor and baking treats with kids.
If you do decide to trick-or-treat, Dr. Safaya offers some safe ways to do so.
Drive-by candy distribution
“Drive-by festivities are still going on, so perhaps consider drive-by trick-or-treating. Families and kids do a drive-by parade or decorate their wagons or bicycles and parade around the neighborhood,” says Dr. Safaya. “If you plan to give out candy, consider putting the candy in individually sealed plastic sandwich bags and placing them, along with hand sanitizer, at the end of a driveway or walkway for trick-or-treaters.”
Visiting houses in your ‘bubble’
If there are multiple families gathering with some unvaccinated members, consider keeping the gathering outdoors, and encourage everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Also, consider staying within your “social bubble” when celebrating, which may help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
“Families can limit their trick-or-treating to their social bubble, and set up an outdoor area, such as at a park, where they can meet and trick-or-treat,” says Dr. Resham Batra, a pediatrician affiliated with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “This approach may limit contact with the rest of the neighborhood.”
No matter how families choose to celebrate this year, the most important advice is to stay safe.
“Along with wearing a mask, keep a distance of 6 feet or more and use hand sanitizer. Also, wash hands frequently and before eating any treats, and avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes while out and about,” adds Dr. Safaya. “It is nice to start returning to traditional Halloween activities, but we should try to still keep in mind ways to enjoy this festive time safely.”