This Halloween we have something more than scary costumes and spooky haunted houses to be concerned about…the H1N1 flu virus is a real threat this Halloween.  There are no studies (at least that I am aware of) on disease transmission and Halloween candy or costumes however there are some common sense things that can be done to make the holiday a bit safer for all of us.  We need to think about how we handle Halloween parties or trick-or-treating for candy, with the goal of minimizing the risk of contracting H1N1.

This might mean doing things differently…For example, the virus can be on a child’s hands and when they place those hands into bowl of candy to dig for their favorite candies at the bottom of the bowl - think about all of the “virus residue” they are leaving on all of those other pieces of candy… get my drift. ;-)

Trick or Treating Basics

  • Sick Kids Should NOT Go Out On Halloween. If a child is sick, keep them home for their own good and for the health of others around them. Don’t just give him or her something to suppress the fever and let them go trick-or-treating. Keep them home.
  • Practice Good Hygiene. Hand washing is the key…wash before eating and after coming in from outside. Good rule is to have kids wash their hands as soon as they come into the house…from anywhere!
  • Make Sure They Have A Small Hand Sanitizer In Their Pockets.  Use hand sanitizer before eating and during trick-or-treating to kill any germs.
  • Practice Good Cough/Sneeze Hygiene. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into their sleeve instead of their hand. Children should discard used tissues after each use and wash their hands after blowing their nose.
  • Avoid Big Crowds If Possible. The H1N1 virus is an airborne illness.  Stay away from very crowded situations if people are coughing and sneezing, if at all possible.

Trick or Treating – Candy Handling

  • Scoop Or Hand Out Halloween Candy Rather Than Letting Them Dig For It. When giving out candy, hand it or scoop it – don’t allow kids to place their hands into the bowl like a “grab bag. Use a cup to scoop it from a bowl – that way, the least number of fingers possible are touching each piece of candy.
  • Let The Candy Age For Two Days. Flu viruses live on surfaces for up to two days so to be on the safe side, let your Halloween bounty age for two days… that way any H1N1 virus that happens to be on the candy wrapper will simply die.
  • Inspect Candy. Parents should plan on inspecting all candy once the kids get home.
    • Toss Unwrapped Candy. Always check Halloween candy for safety.
    • Inspect the Rest. If candy packaging is wet toss it.
    • To Wash Or Not To Wash Halloween Candy. I supposed you could wipe down candy wrappers with a disinfectant but frankly that sounds gross.  I would just let them sit for two days.

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Avoid frightening young children, use common sense and don't overdo the fear factor. Reassure the child that while it's unpleasant to get the flu, they will recover.

Trick or Treating – Costumes, can they prevent disease transmission?

  • Costumes With Gloves. Just like latex gloves that are worn for a long period of time, a costume with gloves will really offer no protection. The gloves will get contaminated and then it becomes like another layer of skin.  Wear gloves for costume effect or warmth but not thinking it will protect your child from diseases.
  • Costume Face Masks. Wearing a scary mask could I suppose help if trick-or-treaters travel in close-knit groups and one in the group is sick and sneezing or coughing. But in reality they will be playing with it, taking it off and on and it wouldn’t do much.  Also a mask could limit vision, making it easier for them to trip or fall.

Halloween Parties

  • Avoid High Touch Games. If you plan to have a party, think about the activities you might be having.  Avoid games that cause kids to exchange objects or physically touch each other.
  • Use Finger Foods. When selecting foods, choose those finger foods and items that don’t require serving utensils that multiple hands will touch.
  • Hands Are The Key! Be sure to have kids wash their hands before food is served and have bottles of hand sanitizer available.
And lastly, don't forget when teaching your children to cough or sneeze safely - do the Dracula! And if you aren't sure what that is about, visit an earlier blog that explains it all. ;-)

Have a healthy, happy and fun Halloween!