• COVID-19

    Halloween safety tips from a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert

a table with Halloween pumklins and leaves, with children (out of focus) in the backgound in costumes

Halloween 2022 falls on a Monday, but many families and children will be holding parties and having activities throughout the weekend leading up to the fun, ghoulie holiday. So, what's the health forecast?

"The good news about Halloween trick-or-treating, for example, is it's usually outdoors, and we know the COVID-19 virus doesn't spread well outdoors," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. "And I know many kids are looking to go trick-or-treating this year."

With the addition of COVID-19 vaccines available for children 6 months and older, and now, approval of bivalent booster vaccines for kids 5 and older, Dr. Rajapakse says there are more tools than ever before to keep communities more protected from COVID-19 infection.

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse talks about Halloween 2022 safety tips

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Rajapakse are available in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Name super/CG: Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D./Pediatric Infectious Diseases/Mayo Clinic.

Stay home when sick

If you are not feeling well, call it a night. Don't take chances. It might be a good time to watch a movie or carve a pumpkin with the kids at home instead of going out.

"Advice to parents this year is if you or your kids are sick, you really shouldn't be participating in Halloween activities. And I would say that's whether you have a positive test for COVID or not. COVID-19 is one of the viruses out there. But other viruses are circulating, and you really don't want to pass on any infection to others," says Dr. Rajapakse.

Stay current on vaccines

It is the time of year when many respiratory viruses can make people sick, especially young children and older adults. 

"If you are planning to participate in any Halloween activities, it is a great opportunity to make sure that your vaccines are up to date. Any kids over 6 months of age now are eligible for both COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines," says Dr. Rajapakse. "And making sure that your kids are vaccinated and up to date for both of those will be important if you plan to participate in Halloween activities."

And if you haven't had your flu shot or the COVID-19 booster vaccine, you might want to do that by Halloween. That's because three weeks after Halloween is Thanksgiving, giving the vaccine time to become effective before any family gatherings.

Home tests and masks

Home testing for COVID-19 is more available than ever. For an added level of protection if going to an indoor party, recommend everyone test before attending. 

Costume masks don't offer protection and may limit vision. An option is to have a child use face paint and wear a medical mask if it's a concern.

"Masking is always a layer of protection. That's helpful, especially if your child has underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system, and they are still planning to participate in Halloween activities," says Dr. Rajapakse.

Masking is not recommended for children under 2.

Candy and food allergies

Regarding Halloween candy, not all children have the same opportunity. 

Dr. Rajapakse says 1 in 13 children have a food allergy, including common ones found in Halloween candy, such as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy and soy. 

"It's great if these kids can still participate in Halloween and do this safely. It's recommended to have some nonfood Halloween items available for trick-or-treaters who maybe have food allergies," she says.

If you are looking for ideas, Dr. Rajapakse says there are plenty of options to consider.

"Some ideas include glow lights or bracelets, different types of little Halloween jewelry or toys, crayons, markers, and Slinkys. Any of these types of little toys would get around those potential allergies and still allow these kids to enjoy Halloween trick-or-treating," she says. 

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For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.