Tips for Healthy Trick-or-Treating

kids trick-or-treatingEmergency Medicine experts at RWJBarnabas Health Southern Region hospitals share ways families can safely enjoy trick-or-treating during the pandemic.

Break out the costumes and candy, because New Jersey has opened the door to trick-or-treaters, declaring that local communities can go ahead with their Halloween celebrations. With many Monmouth County and Ocean County municipalities allowing traditional trick-or-treating on October 31, the Emergency Departments at Community Medical Center in Toms River, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch and Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus in Lakewood share tips for families to enjoy some spooky but safe Halloween fun.

According to Nicole Maguire, DO, the Program Director of Community Medical Center’s new Emergency Medicine Residency Program and Victor Almeida, DO, Regional Chair of Emergency Medicine at Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, it’s important to remember that while children will be happy to take part in this annual tradition during a year that has brought them a lot of change, it’s especially important to continue to practice all of the safety steps suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and other experts.

“As a mother of small children, I understand the struggles many parents are feeling this Halloween,” says Dr. Maguire. “We want our children to enjoy the holiday, but we also have to navigate all of the concerns that the coronavirus pandemic has caused.”

“Childhood injury or accidents are the No. 1 killer of children age 14 and under, and through our Safe Kids’ Monmouth/Ocean chapter, we partner with our local police and recreation departments and school systems to regularly sponsor activities to educate parents, caregivers and children about safety and how simple behavior modifications, at Halloween and throughout the year, can prevent needless tragedies,” Dr. Almeida says.

Dr. Maguire and Dr. Almeida share these tips on how to keep your Halloween safe and spooky:

Costume masks are not facemasks.
Effective facemasks prevent the spread of airborne droplets, cover your mouth and nose without gaps, and are made of two or more layers of breathable fabric. Costume masks do not provide the same protection.

If you’re sick, keep the haunting at home.
If you are not feeling well, keep yourself and others safe by remaining home. When your immune system is fighting an illness, you are at a higher risk of contracting something else. You should also avoid handing out treats to any trick-or-treaters who come to your home.

Paws, claws or hands all need to be kept clean!
Bring sanitizer with you and use it frequently, and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when you return home.

Your ghoulish group should be restricted to your household members.
You and your children probably are part of a social group in your neighborhood, and while traveling as a group to trick-or-treat ensures extra eyes on kids, this year it increases your risk of contracting COVID-19. Even with a mask on, and no symptoms, you need to keep your distance from others.

Like a mummy, only accept treats that are under wraps.
Individually wrapped goodies can be cleaned, and pose less of a risk of contamination. Remind your kids to only take wrapped treats!

Keep a spooky six feet (or more) apart from others.
Remind your kids they may need to wait to approach a front porch if there are already other kids getting their treats. And don’t forget: screaming, singing, or talking loudly can cause airborne droplets to travel farther than 6 feet, so consider leaving some extra space between your family and others.

Creep away from crowds.
Avoid crowded areas, especially indoors. Avoid trick –or-treat stops that involve entering a home or crowded area.

Continue your crawl past homes that are not participating.
If a home has their front lights off, a closed door, or a sign to indicate they are not participating, remind your children to be respectful and continue along on your Halloween hunt for goodies. You may have neighbors that are opting out of trick-or-treating this year for health reasons.

Considering skipping the tricks to treat yourself to some at-home activities.
If a member of your household has pre-existing health conditions, or other reasons that they are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, consider some alternative plans to trick-or-treating that can be done at home. Try an indoor scavenger hunt, pumpkin carving, or movie marathon instead.

The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center’s leadership of Monmouth and Ocean counties’ first and only chapter of the Safe Kids Campaign — an international initiative to prevent injuries and save young lives — is a demonstration of the hospitals’ commitment to injury and accident prevention for children at Halloween and throughout the year.

For more on Halloween safety, visit https://www.safekids.org/halloween.

The RWJBarnabas Health Southern Region spans Monmouth and Ocean counties and includes three acute care hospitals – Community Medical Center in Toms River, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch and Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood and an expansive network of primary and specialty care offices and outpatient centers. This integrated, comprehensive care network further positions RWJBarnabas Health as a national leader in academic medicine, and high quality, coordinated care to improve the health and wellness of their communities.

The hospitals’ Emergency Departments handle nearly 150,000 visits annually and are staffed by full-time, board-certified emergency medicine physicians and nurses highly trained and credentialed in emergency care. They offer dedicated Geriatric and Pediatric Emergency Departments, fast track for minor emergencies, accredited Stroke Centers, peer-to-peer opioid overdose recovery program, high patient satisfaction scores according to a national survey, strong collaboration with EMS and access to the entire RWJBarnabas Health network.