Healthy Tahoe: A safer, healthier haunting this season

Jennifer Ehmann, MD

Seasonal holidays like Halloween will be different this fall to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Finding safe ways to celebrate can create magical memories, and lower the risk of exposure to yourself, your family and your community. The decisions we make on this one day can have a ripple effect beyond our own families.

Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic is a chance for you and your children to get creative and maybe even invent some new traditions. It’s also a great opportunity to model flexibility and a positive spirit. If you’re excited and make it fun, your kids will have fun, too.

As you consider fun alternatives to celebrating Halloween, get creative and plan fun festivities at home, like a scavenger hunt for treats, or a spooky movie night. Carving pumpkins, preparing Halloween-themed food, or decoratingwith your household are fun activities to get into the spirit. You can also invite friends to join you in a virtual Halloween costume contest. Or, take a costumed walk, bike ride, or drive to view local Halloween displays while staying physically distanced in a smaller and safer household group.

If your children will be outside, mark their costumes with reflective tape. Remind them to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them.

From parties to trick-or-treating, many traditional Halloween celebrations pose a high risk of spreading COVID-19. These activities involve face-to-face interactions with people from different households, and generally present situations with closer interaction where a person with COVID-19 may spread it to others.

Trick-or-treating is discouraged because it promotes congregating and mixing of many households, particularly on crowded doorsteps, which can increase the spread of COVID-19. As you go about creating new memories this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents keep doing what you have been doing: avoid large gatherings, keep a distance of six feet from others, wear cloth face coverings and wash hands often.

Some ideas for ways to keep safety steps in place while celebrating:

• Look for outdoor events, but avoid crowds, wear appropriate face coverings, and keep safe distances.

• Avoid confined spaces, especially indoors. Stay at least 6 feet away (three or more adult steps) from all other people who are not part of your own household, especially while talking, eating, drinking, etc.

• If your child collects treats, wipe them down with a sanitizing wipe, or let them sit untouched for at least two days before opening.

• Use cloth face coverings as part of a costume, however do not paint face masks as paints may be toxic.

• Practice good hygiene by washing or sanitizing your hands often. Clean frequently touched items regularly.

If you are sick or have an underlying medical condition, you should stay home and discourage trick-or-treaters from coming to your door by turning off your porch light and around the home.​ ​If you or a household member may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19; or if you are experiencing one or more symptoms including runny nose, cough or congestion, fever, loss of smell or taste, or diarrhea, call Barton’s 24/7 ​COVID-19 health line at 530-600-1999​ if you have these concerns.

Halloween presents many risks of COVID-19 spreading – through the air or by touching contaminated surfaces. Be cautions and use good judgement as you go about your festivities that don’t spread coronavirus to your family and in your community.

Dr. Jennifer Ehmann is a board-certified pediatrician at Barton Community Health Center in South Lake Tahoe.

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