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Erie County Department of Health offers Halloween safety recommendations

The Erie County Department of Health is strongly discouraging indoor Halloween activities, especially if they involve large groups of people.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — With Halloween just around the corner, the Erie County Department of Health is offering a variety of recommendations so residents can celebrate the holiday safely.

The Erie County Department of Health is strongly discouraging indoor Halloween activities, especially if they involve large groups of people. 

“Halloween activities are something that many kids and adults look forward to all year,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “We are recommending strategies for children to stay safe if their parents choose to let them trick-or-treat or participate in other festivities.” 

Every city, town, and village will have its own Halloween guidelines - whether it's hours - like in Amherst where the hours are from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Halloween night for trick-or-treating and you are asked to wear a mask and wash your hands a lot if you're giving out candy. Or in Buffalo, where the mayor is discouraging trick-or-treating and indoor gatherings. Wednesday, the Erie County health commissioner gave parents a few ideas that don't involve trick-or-treating that you can still dress up in a costume for.

"There are a lot of fun things you can do instead of going door-to-door and collecting candy," Burstein said. "You can do activities in your house, like carving pumpkins, or have a dress-up contest, or have a little scavenger hunt in your house. You can have a scavenger hunt in your community, and write a list of things that you want your kids to spot, and they can just walk through the neighborhood in their costumes and tick off that they saw them, and then they can get a candy prize or something healthy prize."

Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

Consider these alternatives to trick-or-treating:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household and put them on display
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorate your house, apartment, living space or vehicle
  • Coordinate a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Hold a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Host a Halloween movie night with your household members
  • Have a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going door-to-door
  • Visit a local orchard or pumpkin patch

The City of Buffalo recommends that city residents find alternative activities to trick-or-treating on October 31. A list of suggestions is available at https://www.buffalony.gov/halloweenevents

Individual municipalities may issue restrictions or guidance for trick-or-treating or other activities on October 31.

Costume Safety

Costumes, wigs and accessories should be:

  • Weather appropriate
  • Fire-resistant
  • Highly visible – if wearing a costume after dark, attach reflective tape to costumes or bags, or carry glow sticks or flashlights
  • Allow children to see clearly and walk easily, and not cause tripping hazards

Make a cloth mask part of the costume. Do not wear a cloth mask over a costume mask (or vice versa). It can make breathing more difficult.

If wearing costume makeup or hair dyes, test on an area of skin first to check for irritation, and wash off thoroughly before children go to sleep.

Traffic and Pedestrian Safety

  • Instruct trick-or-treaters to watch for traffic, especially vehicles entering and leaving driveways.
  • Maintain a six-foot distance from other groups that are not part of your household.
  • Young children should be supervised by a responsible adult.
  • Review the routes of older children who go alone or in a small group of friends, and plan on a specific time for children to check-in and return home.
  • Trick-or-treat in familiar, well-lit areas, and leave electronic devices at home – pay attention to walking, not text messages or emails.
  • Drivers on the road should take extra care to watch for children on roads, curbs, sidewalks and driveways. Enter and exit roads, driveways and alleys with extreme caution. Watch for trick-or-treaters in dark clothing.
  • And for new or inexperienced drivers – on Halloween night stay off the roads if you can.

Candy Safety

Households that choose to participate in trick-or-treat activities should wear a cloth face covering – not a costume mask that covers the full face. Consider having a station with individually bagged treats, and distribute those treats outdoors.

Parents and caregivers can remind children before they start trick-or-treating that they can eat their candy after parents inspect it. Parents, discard candy that is a choking hazard, food items that look homemade, or ones that contain allergens, dyes or other ingredients that your child should avoid.

Children and supervising adults should carry hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol along the trick-or-treat trail. Wash hands thoroughly when returning home and before eating any treats. And, make sure everyone in the house brushes their teeth before going to sleep.

“If you usually plan a neighborhood Halloween party, find ways to keep the activities outdoors and limit the number of people who attend to just a few,” Dr. Burstein offered. “And if you are invited to a Halloween party with a lot of people, this is the year to decline and find an alternative.”