SUNDAY, Oct. 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- As COVID-19 continues to grip the United States, parents need to plan ahead to keep their children safe on Halloween, experts say.
Kids aged 12 and older are eligible for COVID shots, but many haven't been vaccinated. Those under 12 aren't yet eligible for vaccination.
"Some families organized a family movie night, held virtual costume parties, or built special candy-delivering chutes to maintain physical distancing last year," Phoenix pediatrician Dr. Gary Kirkilas said in an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) news release.
"Parents don't necessarily need to do anything elaborate this year to make Halloween safe, but I would consider building on the successes of last year and staying mindful of keeping activities small and outdoors when possible," he added.
He suggested limiting trick-or-treating to small groups and reminded parents to be sure their kids stay outdoors, where the virus is much less likely to spread. Kids should avoid large groups gathering near front doors or in driveways.
If you're handing out treats, consider sitting outside and lining up individually prepackaged goodies on a table for children to take. Non-edible treats such as stickers, glow sticks, temporary tattoos and colored pencils are good options for trick-or-treaters with allergies.
If you're taking kids under 12 to a party or community event, make sure they wear face masks and follow physical distancing rules. Masks should cover the mouth and nose and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps.
In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, everyone should wear face masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parents need to remember that a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth one to protect against COVID-19 transmission.
After kids return from trick-or-treating, they should wash their hands, and parents should inspect their candy to ensure that packaging is not ripped or torn and nothing has been tampered with. Throw away homemade treats.
"The best way to protect children from COVID-19 is to start at home and make sure everyone in the family who is eligible to be vaccinated gets the vaccine," Kirkilas said. "This adds a layer of protection, along with masking, for those too young to be vaccinated and helps provide peace of mind that everyone in the family can enjoy a safe and healthy Halloween."
The Mayo Clinic has more on Halloween safety this year.
SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 13, 2021