Keeping safe this Halloween despite variants
COVID-19 has affected children around the world. It has impacted everything from education to experiences, such as vacations, parties and holidays. As cases seem to be plummeting and life moves even closer to normalcy, Halloween looms on the horizon. People are wondering if it is finally safe to let their kids enjoy the holiday in the manner it was celebrated pre-2020.
To find out the safest way to celebrate the holiday, we asked our medical expert, Dr. Michael Huynh, M.D., for some trick-or-treating tips to help keep children safe and healthy this Halloween.
Are variants still a concern?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “As of Oct. 19, 2022, the current 21-day average of weekly new cases (39,803) decreased 30.9% compared with the previous 21-day moving average (57,564). A total of 97,063,357 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States as of Oct. 19, 2022.”
Dr. Huynh explained that the current variants do not appear to be as severe as what people were exposed to in 2020. “In the beginning, Covid affected the lower part of the respiratory tract in the lungs. Now it attacks the upper respiratory tract: the throat, the sinuses and the nasal passages. It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s not too bad compared to the previous strain.”
With this current strain, however, a lingering cough seems to be a common complaint. “People have postnasal drip secretions in their sinuses,” he explained. “Those secretions are dripping down the back of their throat and causing a lot of irritation. This causes that persistent cough because the body reflexively coughs when there’s something irritating that area.”
Dr. Huynh said while there is still a chance of catching Covid, anxiety levels shouldn’t be too high for Halloween because it is mostly an outdoor event. And, if you take the precautions he suggested and put the proper barriers in place, children should be able to enjoy the holiday this year.
How COVID-19 spreads
The understanding of how COVID-19 spreads has not drastically changed in the past two and a half years. When an infected person exhales, they release carbon dioxide and moisture from their mouth and lungs. The moisture can contain the virus. If enough of the virus lands on another person’s eyes, nose or mouth via a breath, a cough or a sneeze, the virus can enter their body and infect them. Alternatively, these contaminated droplets can land on a surface and transfer to someone’s hands when they touch that surface. If the person touches their eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated fingers, the virus can enter their body and infect them.
Risk factors for Halloween
While the risk of transmission during trick-or-treating is greatly diminished because it is an outdoor activity, it is still possible to get sick if you are not careful. Here are some ways you could contract COVID-19 while trick-or-treating:
- Traveling with a large group of trick-or-treaters who are not vaccinated.
- Going indoors to receive candy.
- Accepting candy from an individual who is contagious.
- Reaching into a community candy dish to collect your candy.
- Eating candy without washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
- Rubbing your eyes while trick-or-treating.
- Touching your mouth or nose before washing your hands.
- Attending an indoor Halloween event.
How to trick-or-treat safely this Halloween
If you have any apprehension or anxiety about trick-or-treating this year, these simple guidelines can help you feel safe.
Dr. Huynh advised, “Make sure the people you’re trick-or-treating with are vaccinated. If everyone is vaccinated, that will reduce the risk of transmission between people in your group.”
Wear a mask beneath your costume mask
“Many people are going to be wearing masks,” Dr. Huyhh reminded. “If you are a little bit more cautious or a little bit more anxious or apprehensive of catching Covid, you can wear a surgical mask beneath your Halloween mask.”
Stay at least 6 feet away from strangers
“If you are unable to wear a mask, that’s OK,” he assured. “You are in an outdoor setting. Just try to avoid large groups and stay at least 6 feet away from people you do not know.”
Try to stay outdoors
Even if your Halloween adventure takes you indoors, the doctor said you shouldn’t be afraid, especially if you’re vaccinated and wearing a mask. However, regardless of whether COVID-19 existed or not, you should be comfortable with the person who invites you in.
Don’t trick-or-treat at peak times
If you are anxious about catching COVID-19 but still want to go out on Halloween, Dr. Huynh suggested trick-or-treating a little earlier in the evening or afternoon, so it is not as busy.
Do not eat candy before washing your hands
“It’s best to avoid eating candy while you are trick-or-treating, especially if you are getting some of it from a communal bucket,” he said. “Go home and wash your hands before eating all the delicious candy that you accumulate.”
Bring hand sanitizer with you
Since kids will be kids, they will be touching their face and their eyes throughout the night. Germs can be passed through digging into candy bowls left outside the house or simply by touching other people who may be contaminated. If you bring hand sanitizer with you on Halloween, you can occasionally sanitize your hands to help prevent contracting the virus. Dr. Huynh said this goes for the flu as well, not just COVID-19.
If you feel sick, stay home
“If you have a sore throat, a headache or you are sneezing or coughing, you should avoid going out trick-or-treating all together,” he said.
If you have been sick, quarantine
When asked how long you need to quarantine after getting the virus, Dr. Huynh said, “The CDC guidelines are based on symptoms. If you have symptoms and you test positive, you should isolate for at least seven days, until you are fever-free for 24 to 48 hours after that. If you test positive but you have no symptoms, you don’t have a cough or a sore throat or a runny nose or a fever, then you can just isolate for five days and go out afterward wearing a mask for the next five days.”
Test before going out
One last bit of advice the doctor offered was, “If you are feeling symptomatic, you should test before going out.”
Products that can help you stay safe this Halloween
A KN95 mask can add an extra layer of protection for trick-or-treaters who feel apprehensive about COVID-19. This offering has five layers and an adjustable nose clip to help seal the mask.
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If you are going to be wearing a mask for long periods of time, extender straps relieve the pain and pressure on the ears. These Velcro straps are easy to adjust for a custom fit, and they are reusable.
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When you aren’t near a source of running water, you can use hand sanitizer to get the virus off your hands. Germ-X is a moisturizing hand sanitizer that can kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria in about 15 seconds.
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When you’re out on the road trick-or-treating, it might be easier to use a spray. This hypoallergenic option is dermatologist-tested and dries without a sticky residue. It is suitable for children ages 6 and up.
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Perhaps the easiest way to apply hand sanitizer on Halloween is to use wipes. These sanitizing wipes are formulated to be gentle on skin. This offering contains 100 wipes that are individually wrapped to ensure they stay clean until they are used.
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When you get home from trick-or-treating, you’ll want to give your hands a thorough washing. This antibacterial hand soap is pH-balanced and has a fresh citrus scent. Each bottle in this six-pack contains 11.25 fluid ounces of soap.
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If you’re not feeling your best, this rapid test can be completed in about 15 minutes to let you know if you are negative or positive. It is easy to use, there is no discomfort when collecting a sample and it is suitable for ages 2 and up (younger children will need an adult to collect the sample).
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