Experts Weigh In on How Families Can Stay Safe This Halloween Season

Child wearing face mask with Halloween costume

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Halloween may be prime time for children to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, but there are several safety considerations to take. Safely traveling around the neighborhood and watching for allergens in candy may be top-of-mind while trick-or-treating.

However, one of the biggest concerns families are facing again this year is COVID-19. Though many people are figuring out how to navigate their daily lives amid the pandemic, Halloween comes with a unique situation for parents to consider. It is important to figure out how to celebrate the holiday safely while still following CDC guidelines. Here is how parents and children can have a fun Halloween while keeping safety top-of-mind, according to three pediatricians.

How to Stay Warm and Visible

Choosing a child’s Halloween costume requires more than just picking something they like. It is important to keep both safety and the weather in mind, especially if you live someplace cooler. Just like you layer regular clothes, consider layering with a Halloween costume as well. Long-sleeve shirts can be worn underneath most costumes, as can leggings or long underwear. 

For safety, there are a few important additions that should be made to any costume. Mollie Greves Grow, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, advises that parents make sure their children's outfits don't pose a tripping risk. This means checking to be sure nothing is too long and that shoes fit properly and are comfortable.

“Also look for light-colored fabrics with reflective tape to help children be more noticeable in the evening," Dr. Grow adds. "If your child loves a costume that is [dark-colored], you can purchase glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces to help them be more visible in the dark.”

Also be wary of costumes that include accessories that could be hazardous, such as plastic weapons. If a child trips while carrying one of these, they could be more seriously injured than they would if they didn’t have a plastic sword with their costume.

You should also be mindful of the ingredients used in costume pieces and accessories, says Sara Huberman Carbone, MD, a pediatrician with One Medical. Some face paints could be made with toxic ingredients, and some costumes may have latex or nickel, which are common allergens. 

How to Trick or Treat Safely

The fun of trick-or-treating is getting the candy, but both parents and children need to take caution here for a few reasons.

Florencia Segura, MD, FAAD

Halloween can be one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies.

— Florencia Segura, MD, FAAD

First, candy can include several allergens. “Halloween can be one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies," says Florencia Segura, MD, FAAD, a pediatrician with Einstein Pediatrics. "Reading the ingredient label on any treat your child receives if they have a food allergy is critical because many popular Halloween candies contain some of the most common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat.”

Parents should inspect candy before allowing children to eat any, especially if the child has allergies. Be sure to dispose of anything that contains an allergen. You should also make sure none of the candy has been opened. Dispose of anything open or potentially contaminated. 

Also, because COVID-19 is still a concern, parents should be wary of where children are trick-or-treating. All the pediatricians suggest only trick-or-treating at a small number of homes and sticking to interacting with people you are comfortable with.

Parents and children should also keep hand sanitizer with them during trick-or-treating. This way, you can use it as needed. Everyone should also wash their hands thoroughly at the end of the night before diving into any of the candy.

For families who are passing out candy, consider leaving it out on the porch or by the front door for other families to take and go. This will minimize the number of people you are coming in contact with, which can lessen the potential for the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Florencia Segura, MD, FAAD

Halloween and other holidays keep our children feeling normal during a very different time with many activities and playdates already ‘canceled.’ Whatever we can do to keep these holidays going while remaining safe is extremely important to us as pediatricians.

— Florencia Segura, MD, FAAD

How to Wear a Face Mask With a Costume

Dr. Segura points out that we know more now about COVID-19 than we did before, which might make the holiday easier to navigate. Though trick-or-treating happens outside, pediatricians still suggest wearing face masks, especially if you will be coming in contact with other people.

Remember that costume masks do not serve the same purpose as medical masks. “Parents should be aware that costume masks do not offer protection from COVID-19," says Dr. Carbone.

It is not recommended that you wear a medical mask underneath a costume mask, as this may make it difficult to breathe. However, you can easily incorporate a face mask into your child's costume. Dr. Segura suggests that a superhero costume could be a great idea.

You can also find ways to make the mask part of the costume. “Masks can be uniquely designed and easily incorporated into costumes by adding fun designs like vampire teeth or cat whiskers,” Dr. Grow adds.

Halloween Safety Best Practices

Halloween is a popular time of year for children to get injured, especially when it comes to getting around to trick-or-treat. Following some tried-and-true tips can help keep everyone safe on Halloween night.

Parents should make sure children are always using sidewalks and driveways to avoid being in the street. “It is important that [kids] understand when and where to cross the street, and to walk—not run—no matter how excited they are,” Dr. Grow says. 

Someone in the party should also have a flashlight, just in case you run into any areas of poor lighting. A light on a phone is an easy way to have a flashlight without carrying something extra.

Be sure your kids head out to trick-or-treat with a chaperone, whether it is an older sibling, a parent, or a babysitter. Even if a child is trick-or-treating at houses in your neighborhood, it is advisable to have supervision for safety.

In the case a child does get separated from parents or a chaperone, Dr. Carbone noted that it is important for the child to know their home phone number or a parent’s cell phone number. “Parents may write this information on a tag inside young children’s costumes as well,” she said. That way, they can call for help if needed.

At-Home Alternatives

Some families may choose to forego trick-or-treating completely this year because of the pandemic and Delta variant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate this holiday at home, though, with just the family.

“Pumpkin decorating, movie night, or a candy scavenger hunt around the house are great safe options,” Dr. Carbone suggests. Families could also host their own trick-or-treat around the house by having different candies in each room for children to collect.  

As Dr. Segura pointed out, even in COVID-19 times, children are searching for some semblance of normalcy, so having Halloween festivities of some sort can be a comfort for them, especially when they have been looking forward to the holiday.

“Halloween and other holidays keep our children feeling normal during a very different time with many activities and playdates already ‘canceled,'" she says. "Whatever we can do to keep these holidays going while remaining safe is extremely important to us as pediatricians.”

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2 Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Steps to Take When Trick or Treating. Published October 2020.

  2. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don't be spooked by injuries this Halloween; follow CPSC's tips to protect children from harm. Published October 24, 2019.