University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics offers tips for Halloween safety this year

During the COVID-19 pandemic, families are looking for ways to celebrate Halloween while keeping their children safe. Health-care experts recommend people wear face masks, practice social distancing, and wash their hands to avoid a spike in cases after the holiday.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are providing guidance on how to trick-or-treat this year, including good hand hygiene and incorporating face masks into Halloween costumes.

Health-care professionals are also offering activities for children who are in the hospital during Halloween, UIHC Childlife Programming Specialist Emily Baxter said.

“We still have to do something fun for these kids,” Baxter said. “To bring some normalcy and normal kid’s stuff to them, we are making sure the holiday is fun.”

Shey said the hospital is offering events throughout the week, including Halloween-themed versions of bingo and Family Feud as well as passing out treat bags. All activities allow patients to participate in their rooms to ensure comfort and safety.

The hospital is also providing costumes for children in the hospital, Baxter said, including costumes for kids who use wheelchairs.

With the pandemic, it’s important to remember to practice good hand hygiene, social distance, and wear a mask, UIHC Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist Melanie Wellington said.

“If everybody’s wearing a mask, using good hand hygiene, following distancing reasonably well, and outdoors, the risk of transmission is very low,” Wellington said. “If an adult wants to have more interaction, it’s a bit higher risk, so everyone has to judge their own willingness to tolerate risk.”

She added that children can still get COVID-19, adults are most at risk, Children are also less likely to transmit the disease.

Before families leave their homes, they need to have a discussion about their safety and comfort levels, UIHC Program Manager for Pediatric Injury Prevention and Outreach Pam Hoogerwerf said, and people planning to hand out treats this year have a few options to keep everyone safe. She recommends leaving candy in the driveway for kids to grab to avoid face-to-face interaction in someone’s doorway.

“The best practice is to give some nice distance between where the kids get the treat and where the person living in the home is,” Hoogerwerf said. “You can maintain a really nice distance from them and still wish them a happy Halloween.”

The health-care experts said it’s important to encourage children to wear their masks during trick-or-treating. One way to do this is to decorate masks to make them more fun, Hoogewerf said.

“The most important thing any parent can do to get their kid to wear a mask is to wear a mask themselves,” Wellington said. “Setting a good example by using masks, practicing good hand hygiene, and social distancing is most important.”

Wellington also said it’s important for family members to practice traditional Halloween safety measures as well, including wearing a light when it gets dark and traveling with a group. Hoogerwerf added that light-colored and reflective material makes trick-or-treaters more visible to drivers on the road.

“One of the more common ways that we see kids getting injured on Halloween night is by vehicles, because kids are darting across the street and cars can’t see trick-or-treaters,” she said.

Additionally, Hoogerwerf said it’s important for children to have someone who’s responsible for making safe decisions for the group.

“The responsible person is going to help keep the group contained and keep the distances from other groups that are trick-or-treating,” she said. “They can manage whether or not they feel comfortable approaching a house.”

For families who want to stay inside this year, Hoogerwerf said there are many opportunities to make the holiday fun for their kids. She said families can do Zoom parties, hide candy around the house, or play games.

“We’re in a different world this time for Halloween,” the health expert said. “There’s an opportunity where you really need to stop and think about the different types of risk levels and make a decision with your family about how you’re going to celebrate.”

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