October 26, 2020

Pediatrician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt urges caution this Halloween

While most of 2020 has been pretty scary, Halloween doesn’t have to be, say experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.


by Jessica Pasley

While most of 2020 has been pretty scary, Halloween doesn’t have to be, say experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“While traditional celebrations, haunted houses, door-to-door trick-or-treating and large gatherings are not safe options this year, there are still ways to enjoy this Halloween,” said Shari Barkin, MD, MSHS, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released guidelines for a safer trick-or-treating experience, which continues to follow the safety measures issued during the COVID pandemic — wear a mask, safely distance and wash your hands.

“Safety has always been the No. 1 priority during Halloween and this year is no different,” Barkin said. “We want families to safely enjoy the holiday, and of course that depends on the community context and the number of COVID positive cases. Halloween can still be a lot of fun for everyone if basic guidelines are followed. There are many alternatives to enjoying this traditional holiday.”

Barkin recommends minimizing risk of COVID transmission and maximizing fun with these suggestions:

  • Carving/decorating pumpkins outside with family members or neighbors in small gatherings. Groups of 10 or less is best. Ensure physical distancing and mask wearing. “You never know when that unexpected cough or sneeze could occur,” Barkin said.
  • Creating a scavenger hunt style trick-or-treating activity around the home rather the traditional door-to-door method
  • Hosting an outdoor Halloween movie night with physical distancing “If the movie is a real screamer and others from outside your household are attending, in addition to 6-foot physical distancing, wear your mask so you don’t spread respiratory droplets.”
  • Visiting a pumpkin patch or apple orchard to enjoy the outdoors. Masking is still suggested as well as proper hand hygiene. Physical distancing is a bit easier in these scenarios.
  • Costume parades allow for a one-way, controlled display of children dressed up and allows for physical distancing. Children could receive a small grab-and-go gift or bag of candy at the end.

Barkin urges families to make an informed choice to minimize the risk of virus transmission.

“It’s important for people to also know that a Halloween mask that is part of a costume is not a substitution for a cloth mask,” she said. “It would be best to incorporate a cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth into the costume.”

Barkin cautioned against wearing a cloth mask under a traditional Halloween mask because of the potential for breathing difficulty. She also strongly urged handwashing or use of hand sanitizer before eating any treats.

Definite things to avoid:

  • Direct contact with trick-or-treaters
  • Leaving buckets of candy out for trick or treaters
  • Crowded parties
  • Haunted houses
  • Hayrides

“This is a community holiday,” said Barkin. “We want to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe.”

For more information about the CDC guidelines for safe holiday activities visit: