Halloween is a favorite fall celebration in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic poses some challenges for enthusiasts of this holiday. How can you have fun and still stay safe this Halloween?

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Halloween is the time of the year when many fall enthusiasts drink pumpkin spice lattes, watch favorite horror flicks, and go trick-or-treating.

Every year, people around the U.S and the world throw costume parties to celebrate this holiday, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time with friends and family.

This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has made celebrating Halloween more complicated, as social gatherings can facilitate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

Despite this, some data suggest that many people in the U.S. have not let the pandemic deter them from their yearly Halloween preparations.

According to a Statista projection from September, planned nationwide expenses for Halloween costumes amount to 2.6 billion dollars. Estimates also indicate another 2.6 billion dollars on Halloween decorations and 2.4 billion dollars on candy.

So how can people stay safe while still enjoying this favorite fall holiday? In this Special Feature, we look at some best practices and offer tips for health, safety, and fun.

We have based our suggestions on official guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Article highlights:

Trick-or-treating and costume parties may be the best-loved Halloween activities, but they typically involve close contact with many people from different households. This can facilitate the transmission of the new coronavirus.

For example, if someone who has unknowingly contracted SARS-CoV and has not experienced any symptoms engages in regular social activities, they might be putting others at risk.

The best way to stay safe this Halloween is to avoid contact with people from other households, which might mean avoiding trick-or-treating and attending parties with people you do not share a living space with.

However, the CDC suggest some ways that people who want to make the most of this fall festivity can mitigate the risks.

If children go treat-or-tricking, they must avoid coming into direct contact with other treat-or-trickers or with any adults offering them treats.

They must also try to keep at least 6 feet away from other children and adults that do not live with them and carry hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content to use frequently.

Adults may want to supervise children as they use hand sanitizer and frequently use it themselves.

Adults offering candy to young treat-or-trickers must ensure they do not come into direct contact with them. Ideally, pack the treats in individual bags and place them outdoors on a specially assigned “treat station.”

Always wash the hands before and after handling any treats or treat bags destined for children from other households.

Children must also wash their hands thoroughly before they eat any candy they have received while treat-or-tricking.

Here is our detailed guide on the best technique for hand washing.

One of the most important aspects of Halloween is, of course, wearing costumes.

Both adults and children should aim to incorporate a face covering — covering the nose and mouth — into their outfit during any treat-or-tricking activities or any other activities where they might encounter people who do not form part of their household.

Healthline’s chief medical officer, Dr. Hanh Le, advises that: “For this Halloween, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, costumes that have a mask that covers the mouth and nose area are likely the safest, and costumes that are either disposable or washable will most likely decrease your risk of contamination in the future.”

However, the CDC caution that a regular “costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.”

They also advise against wearing a cloth face covering under a costume mask, as this could “make breathing more difficult.”

Read our guidelines on how to make an appropriate cloth mask to wear in public settings.

The safest way to celebrate this Halloween is with people from your own household.

Pumpkin carving, wearing fun costumes, and participating in traditional Halloween games can be just as fun in smaller, more intimate circles as they are in larger social gatherings.

However, for those choosing to celebrate with people outside their households, the CDC offer the following advice on staying safe and minimizing the risk of transmitting the virus.

According to the CDC and medical experts, one way of minimizing transmission during a social gathering is by holding it in an outdoor space.

Our medical adviser, Dr. Hanh Le, explains why:

“When organizing Halloween get-togethers, it is advisable to plan them outdoors if possible because [spacing] people out in an open outdoor setting is the best way to prevent person-to-person transmission. Gathering a lot of people together in small confined spaces — especially if it’s loud and people [need] to lean in to hear each other — is a recipe for disaster for widespread COVID-19 transmission among all your guests.”

Make sure to ventilate any indoor spaces used during a holiday gathering.

Hosts who wish to organize a get-together should limit the number of guests and ensure that everyone is familiar with and willing to follow current safety guidelines.

Some hosts may choose to provide disposable face masks, hand sanitizer, and tissues to their guests if they are unable to bring their own.

The CDC also suggest that people organizing social gatherings “consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.”

Place tables and chairs to allow for physical distancing between guests from different households. When it comes to cutlery, plates, and drinking cups, using disposable ones may be the safest option.

Providing individual sachets or pots of sauce, condiments, and salad dressings is also safer than passing around one container that everyone will handle.

Some hosts may suggest that guests bring their own food and drink to avoid sharing with others. Where that is not possible, limit contact with shared items or surfaces.

If people from different households cannot keep at least 6 feet apart from others, they should wear face coverings.

Hosts and guests alike must remember to thoroughly wash their hands before handling shared items or serving or eating food.

Finally, and most importantly, if you feel unwell or think you may have had exposure to a virus, please avoid all social gatherings to keep your friends and family safe.

For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.