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What Are The Risks Associated With Trick-Or-Treating This Year?

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With Halloween right around the corner, parents are in a quandary.

Should you or shouldn’t you let your children trick or treat?

Dr. Chad Sanborn, board-certified in pediatric infectious diseases at KIDZ Medical Services has been a consistent voice of steady information since the onset of the coronavirus. We were able to talk with him and get his thoughts about the risks of trick or treating during the pandemic.

1. What are the risks associated with trick-or-treating this year?
 
Well, unfortunately, Coronavirus is still with us and will be going around this holiday season. There certainly are risks of catching the virus with the traditional door to door trick-or-treating in large groups as well as in indoor haunted houses. 
I wish it weren’t so, but putting a lot of children and teens together in close proximity, talking loudly and screaming in fright (and delight, for that matter) can certainly spread this virus. 
Additionally, there is a potential for infection from someone handing out candy to kids from their front door.  Finally, there is a risk of spreading infection with Halloween parties where people are standing or sitting around in close proximity to each other.
 
2. Do you recommend families skip it altogether, or are there ways to mitigate the risks?
 
Tough call here. I’ll put it this way: I know everyone, including myself, really wants a return to normalcy as soon as possible, especially for our children. This coronavirus doesn’t really care what we want though, and we are in the midst of a pandemic; this probably isn’t the best year to go door to door trick-or-treating.
 
That being said, if you and your family are going to go out, I would recommend going in small groups with families you know. You and your children should wear cloth face masks- the prevention offered from a Halloween costume mask is likely to be variable, at best. 
If you want to give out candy from your home, leave it out in individually wrapped packages/bags that the children can take. I would recommend bringing hand sanitizer/wipes for the children, particularly if multiple kids are reaching into the candy containers simultaneously. 
Spending time outside is better than spending time inside with multiple people, and try to keep six feet of distance when walking down the street when trick-or-treating. 
It’s still not entirely clear how well this virus is spread by contact, but maybe wiping down the candy packages/bags or waiting a few days before enjoying the trick-or-treating candy is a good idea.
 In the meantime, you could buy your own candy as a treat for when the kids get home. 
Finally, if you or your kid is sick, even if you think it’s “just a cold,” stay home!
 
3. Are your kids at the trick-or-treating age? If so, how are they handling this as a family?
My own daughters are elementary/middle school-aged, and they’re pretty much done with the whole COVID business. I don’t blame them. While our plans are not final, we’ll likely either dress up and walk around looking at home decorations or just stay home, carving pumpkins and watching Halloween movies. 
There’s a pretty good chance I won’t be “cool dad” with my girls this year, unfortunately. However, no matter what ends up happening, Halloween candy will be eaten.
The Harvard Global Health Institute created a website to help parents assess their risk level for Halloween activities with a color-coded map of county COVID data.

Chad Sanborn, MD

Chad Sanborn, MD, Board-certified in pediatric infectious diseases, KIDZ Medical Services. He has been working as a pediatric infectious disease physician in Palm Beach County for more than 10 years. He treats patients with a wide range of infectious diseases such as MRSA, recurrent fevers, skin and bone infections, parasitic infections, HIV, recurrent viral infections, and also provides counsel in travel medicine.