Halloween safety tips from NNPHD, Nebraska Regional Poison Center


With Halloween fast approaching, Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department has been sharing CDC guidelines for safely celebrating the popular holiday in the midst on the coronavirus pandemic. NNPHD health director Julie Rother said it's ok to celebrate Halloween, but is encouraging the public to forego traditional celebrations and get creative.

"The traditional trick-or-treating is really discouraged this year, just because that is a higher risk activity," Rother said. (By) going door to door, you've got a lot of exposure to a lot of different people. If you have all of the treats in one basket you've got a lot of hands that are reaching into the same basket."

The CDC, who NNPHD takes its guidance from, is advising against trunk-or-treat type activities as well. Rother said the problem with that activity is that it encourages participants to line up, close together. Even when outdoors, particularly in large groups, maintaining a six foot distance is highly encouraged.

Even though traditional methods of celebrating Halloween aren't encouraged this year, it doesn't mean people can't have fun, according to Rother.

"(Halloween) doesn't have to be canceled, it just has to be given a lot of thought and consideration and planning," Rother said.

If you are having trick-or-treaters, for instance, Rother suggests laying treats out on a table so children can touch only the candy they're taking, or making baggies with treats in them. Another way to celebrate could be having a pumpkin carving contest within individual neighborhoods as long as distancing within households are upheld.

"If you do things within your neighborhood remember the physical distancing and keeping in household groups rather than just all mingling," she said. "Anytime you mingle with people outside of your household is when you run the risk of exposure to the virus, so you could have a Halloween costume contest and keep in mind that physical distancing and keeping to your own household."

For more information about public health, find NNPHD online at nnphd.org.

Along with NNPHD and the CDC, The Nebraska Regional Poison Center offers the following advice to parents and caregivers to help keep their children safe this Halloween:

• Look for outdoor events, but avoid crowds, and follow safe distance rules even when outdoors.

• Sponsor an outdoor block party as an alternative to wide-range trick-or-treating 

• If you are sick, stay home and don’t prepare or distribute treats.

• If you go to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard, use hand sanitizer before and after your visit.

• Glow sticks can cause immediate stinging and a burning sensation if the liquid comes in contact with the mouth, skin or eyes.  Small children may put these in their mouths, as they are soft to chew on and can be easily broken open.  

• Homemade treats or anything out of its original wrapper should be thrown away unless parents are positive of the identity of the person from which it came. Wipe down all outer wrappers.

• Give out individual treat bags instead of having children put their hands in a bowl of candy.

• Marijuana edibles can be found in many shapes and sizes and they resemble traditional candies in their names and packaging.  This is another good reason to check all your children’s candy.   

• Costumes should be warm, well- fitting and non-flammable.  Use cloth face coverings as part of a costume. Remember: a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.  

• Make sure children are accompanied by an adult and take a flashlight along if it is dark.  All children should stay in their own neighborhood.

 • Frostbite can occur if dry ice touches the skin or mouth.  Serving punch with dry ice is generally acceptable, but with COVID-19 it would be best not to serve punch this year at a gathering.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.  Call 1-800-222-1222 to talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.  Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information in your smart phone.