Your child is no doubt eager to scare up a frightful Halloween costume and go trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, Halloween can be hazardous for children – and grown-ups, too – who are at risk for asthma flares or anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. This year, COVID-19 is another risk to which children and parents must prepare. Here are answers to questions you may have while planning for Halloween this year.
COVID-19 and Halloween
Is it safe to go trick-or-treating on Halloween during COVID-19?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the traditional Halloween activity of trick-or-treating door to door is high-risk for spreading COVID-19.
CDC says it’s moderately safe for people to give away Halloween candy if it’s in an individually wrapped goodie bag and lined up at the edge of the yard for trick-or-treaters to grab and go. If you’re wrapping the goodie bags, make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds before preparing the bags.
If you have COVID-19 or suspect you may have it, you should not participate in any Halloween activities and not pass out candy to trick-or-treaters.
What are other high-risk activities?
- Going to a trunk-or-treat event where candy is passed out from the trunks of cars
- Attending a crowded costume party indoors
- Going to an indoor haunted house where there’s a crowd and some screaming (which can spread respiratory droplets containing the virus)
- Going on a hayride with people not in your family
Does a Halloween costume mask provide protection against COVID-19?
Halloween costume masks do not provide protection against COVID-19 unless they are made of two layers of breathable fabric and cover both the mouth and nose.
CDC does not recommend people wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it could make it hard to breathe.
Can I get together with friends for Halloween during COVID-19?
CDC says it’s moderately safe to get together in a small group in an outdoor setting – a costume parade or a pumpkin patch, for example – as long as people are wearing protective cloth masks and distanced more than 6 feet apart.
Similarly, going to a one-way, walk-through haunted forest is also moderately safe with the same mask and social distancing precautions. However, if screaming is likely to occur, greater social distancing is recommended to lower the risk of spreading the virus.
What are some low-risk Halloween activities during COVID-19?
Make Halloween a special time just for family. Work in a framework that creates meaningful memories and avoids risky results.
- Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your home and display them alongside other Halloween decorations.
- Get dressed up and then host a virtual costume content with family and friends. Close out the night with a movie.
- Try a Halloween scavenger hunt. Give children a list of Halloween-themed items to look for around your house or in your neighborhood, with a reward of candy when all items are found.
Food allergies and Halloween
How can parents keep children with food allergies safe on Halloween?
Most Halloween candy contains common food allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk and egg. Baked goods may also contain wheat or soy.
Parents should inspect their children’s Halloween candy and check each label carefully. Federal law requires food labels — even mini-size candy bars — to list common allergens.
If one child in a family has food allergies and another does not, then be sure to separate out the candy with allergens so there’s no chance of an accidental exposure.
Do not try to guess if a candy contains an allergen. Call the manufacturer if you’re uncertain. If the label includes an advisory statement such as “May contain” for “Produced in a facility with,” there’s a chance the food allergen is present. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider — for most, avoiding these candies is the safest way to go.
Also be aware that snack size candies may not have the same ingredients or be made on the same production lines as the full-size counterparts. Therefore, read the labels cautiously, and if the ingredient information is not clearly labeled, do not allow your child to consume the candy.
What are some other Halloween safety measures for children with food allergies?
- On Halloween night, pack epinephrine auto-injectors and a flashlight so that you’re prepared for anaphylaxis while trick-or-treating.
- Consider putting together a Halloween route consisting of family, friends and neighbors and ask them to put allergy friendly Halloween candy or treats (apple, bubble gum, lollipops) in your child’s bag. Or request food-free alternatives to snacks and candy, such as crayons, temporary tattoos, stickers or novelty toys.
- Don’t leave Halloween candy lying around your home or apartment where food-allergic children can easily find it.
- Teach children to politely refuse offers of cookies, baked goods and other homemade treats (cupcakes, muffins) that may contain allergens.
- Consider trading in the collected candy for other safe treats, prizes or rewards.
What should you do if a child experiences anaphylaxis after eating Halloween candy?
If your child has an accidental exposure to a food allergen and anaphylaxis symptoms occur, the first line of treatment is epinephrine.
This shot of adrenaline via an epinephrine auto-injector is safe, fast acting and helps treat the immune system’s response to the allergen.
Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors — including on your Halloween route — in case a second reaction occurs. Seek follow-up medical care right away.
Can you be allergic to pumpkin?
There are reported cases of allergic reactions to pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, but these are very rare.
The pumpkin is part of the gourd family. It has shown to have cross reactivity with pollens, including ragweed which is common in the fall.
Reactions may occur not only from eating pumpkin bread, muffins or pies, but also when carving pumpkins.
Asthma and Halloween
How can I keep my asthma under control on Halloween?
Everything from chilly Halloween weather to fog machines could cause asthma symptoms to flare.
Dressing up is one of the best parts of Halloween fun, but before reusing old costumes stored away in your attic or basement, give them a thorough washing in hot water. They could be full of environmental allergens such as mold or dust mites.
On Halloween night, pack a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler so that you’re prepared for an asthma flare if you go out trick-or-treating.
If it’s cold outside and you have asthma, wearing a scarf with breathable fabric (such as cotton) over the mouth and nose can warm and humidify the cold, dry air you breathe – and minimize the possibility of an asthma flare. However, wearing a scarf is not considered effective at filtering out COVID-19 viral particles. It is recommended you use a face mask to protect yourself against COVID-19. Do not put a scarf over the face mask as this may impact your breathing.
Avoid Halloween houses using fog machines, which are known to cause asthma flares. Don’t go into a neighbor’s house that might have a smoker or a pet – both are potential allergens.
Latex allergy and Halloween
What are ways to prevent latex allergy during Halloween?
Many costumes and masks are manufactured using latex, the milky fluid from rubber trees.
Parents of children with latex allergy should verify what a costume or mask is made of before buying it or dressing up their child. A child with a latex allergy could have an allergic reaction to a Halloween mask made with latex. Check the product’s label for latex, but it may be best to contact the manufacturer directly. Ask for the consumer relations department.
Also, make sure the costume has a pocket wide enough to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors in case anaphylaxis symptoms occur.
Hosting or attending a Halloween party? Latex balloons are a trigger for severe allergic reactions for those with latex allergy. Nonlatex Mylar® balloons are safer alternatives.
Skin allergies and Halloween
Can makeup cause an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction to Halloween makeup is possible, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
Some makeup may contain preservatives, including formaldehyde, which can cause a rash, swelling of the skin or breathing problems. Read the product’s label and check the packaging for any warnings.
Test the makeup on a very small area of the skin – such as the back of the hand or the inner wrist – well in advance of Halloween. If a rash or any abnormality occurs, do not use the makeup, ACAAI advises.
Also, keep an eye on costume accessories such as crowns, wands or faux jewelry that may contain nickel or cobalt, which can cause allergic reactions.