Published on Oct 29, 2020

Video Transcript


[WOMAN SCREAMS] JOHN WHYTE: Hi, everyone. I'm Doctor John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD. And you're Watching "Coronavirus in Context."

Should Halloween be canceled? To answer that question, I've asked my colleague, good friend, pediatrician, and mom to provide insights, Dr. Hansa Bhargava. Hansa, thanks for joining me.

HANSA BHARGAVA: Thank you for having me here, John.


JOHN WHYTE: Hansa, you wrote a very interesting blog on our website, exactly what I just said. Should Halloween be canceled? So, what's your answer?

HANSA BHARGAVA: You know John, I think that Halloween is a really important holiday for a lot of families and a lot of kids. And it's especially important in this time where mental health issues are on the rise, kids are just feeling like things have been taken away. So my short answer is no. But it needs to be modified so that it's safe.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, let's break it down. What are the guidelines? Can kids go trick or treating? You know, I-- I have these. Can-- can I still use these this year? Or-- or how is it going to be different?

HANSA BHARGAVA: I think trick or treating traditionally, in the traditional way, is probably not a great idea. The reason is that kids and-- and families meet each other, you're not really in the bubble of just a small group of people, you're going door to door. And kids get chatty and, you know, cluster.

And those are things that can actually help propagate the spread of coronavirus. So especially with the surges that we're seeing right now and the potential surges in the next few months, it's just not a good idea to do it traditionally. But what they can do is do it in a-- in a different way with just a small group of people.

JOHN WHYTE: What about this idea that some people are talking about, put candy in bags at the end of your driveway, and kids can pick it up on-- on a table, and, you know, we can wash our hands in between, maybe going to different houses in your neighborhood. What about that idea? Is that OK?

HANSA BHARGAVA: I think it's a good idea if you're going to do it, which I still don't recommend is a great idea to do trick or treating. But I think the socially-distanced, uh, table as well as the spread of the candy in separate bags is a good way to do it. But again, I caution people that maybe just do it with a few neighbors, maybe one or two or three neighbors, or just in a cul-de-sac. Or maybe just, you know, if you live in an apartment building, just maybe a couple of doors. I would just really limit the interaction. But certainly if you choose to do it with a few families, then that would be the way to do it.

JOHN WHYTE: Does it matter based on the age of your kids? So if you have a seven and an eight-year-old, you're going to go with your child to make sure everything is OK, versus if you have a 13 and 14-year-old, they may want to go on their own. And it may be more difficult to monitor exactly what's going on. So what's the role of age when-- when parents are making the decision about what kids can do?

HANSA BHARGAVA: Well, John, I think this year, in particular, you just want to have a lot of guardrails around the kids no matter what the age of the kids are. And 13 and 14-year-olds can be on their own, but they also tend to make decisions that are not so thoughtful. So I would suggest that the families try and stay together in a cluster. Make sure that social distancing is happening and not mix with a lot of children. So even if the kids are older, I think it's really important for the parents to be part of that this year.

JOHN WHYTE: So what can we do at home? You often talk about the importance of resilience, and how it's critically important now to have some sense of normalcy. At the same time, we want to make it fun for our kids. So, what are some of those strategies that we could do at home? You talked about a parade, you know, perhaps at home.


JOHN WHYTE: Uh, so how-- how do we do that? Wh-- what are Hansa's tips for a fun--

HANSA BHARGAVA: Yeah, absolutely. So it's-- it's, um-- and I do agree it's that balance, right, John? Like, you know, we don't want to take one more thing away. So we reframe it.

For example, so if the kids are younger, then talk to them about how doing-- you're doing Halloween in a different way. If they're older, then talk about how we're going to try and limit the, uh-- the spread of infection and how important it is. Of course, they've been hearing it on the news anyway. So talk to them that way.

So some of the tips that I have are that you can actually go crazy on some of the fun things in Hal-- uh, for Halloween. For example, costume making, do that together, carve pumpkins together, go-- you know, go crazy on the decorations outside. Get your kids involved with all of that. Maybe, you know, there's a craft night that you can do.

And then even for Halloween night itself, like, you know, have a little Halloween party inside your home. Maybe it's one or two friends that come over or maybe a family member comes over. But you can have a scary movie night. You could go outside and have a little Halloween gathering, maybe a fire out there. You know, there's so many things that you can do.

JOHN WHYTE: You have to be creative and then think of something new rather than just say we're not doing anything. What about a scavenger hunt? How do we do that?

HANSA BHARGAVA: Yeah. And I-- you know it's funny cause I-- I posted a little question On Twitter, and I had a lot of doctors reply back. And they had some great ideas. And one of them was a scavenger hunt between-- either in the different rooms of the house or even like in like with-- with three homes that are side by side or a couple of friends and have-- do that together as a family.

There was an idea of a socially-distanced parade. So that's kind of cute as well. Maybe just like in a small area of the street, just have the kids socially distance and get co-- you know, get costumes on. The parents can do that, too.

And then one idea I thought was really, really cute was, you know, for the little kids, just having a trick or treating at home. Like tell them to go from room to room. And, you know-- and the parents dress up as well. So there's a lot of creativity. And this is the time that-- that you could use that.

JOHN WHYTE: Are getting dressed up for Halloween?

HANSA BHARGAVA: You know, John, Halloween is my favorite holiday actually. So I do get dressed up to hand out candies generally. This year, I-- I have to discuss it with my teens.

But, you know, I wanted to say one more thing about that because, you know, a lot of adults like Halloween, too, right, Halloween parties, haunted houses. And I would just really caution adults, and older kids, and even college kids to be really careful this year. Like Halloween parties are not a great idea this year. But maybe a gathering with-- with one or two friends outside is a way to do it and still have a nice time.

JOHN WHYTE: And haunted houses, really, are on the no-no list at--


JOHN WHYTE: --in many, uh, cities just because the virtue of you're close together, uh, just by scaring you off and you're-- you're-- you're close together. Yet at the same time, to your point, we want to think of different ways to-- to continue to have fun while at the same time having that physical distancing, wearing masks if were around other people that are in our family, uh, as well as making sure we wash our hands.

You know, Hansa, I want to ask you about masks because there's been some confusion. So when we're talking about masks, there's the Halloween mask, yet there's also the masks that we're talking about in terms of protecting us from coronavirus. So, how do we incorporate both of these type of masks if kids are going around doing some trick or treating under those safeguards that we just talked about?

HANSA BHARGAVA: Yeah. Well, as you and I both know, the masks are, obviously, really important in terms of the prevention and spread. So the cloth masks are a great idea. But masks that are plastic are really not. There is no science and research that's proving that that actually does the job effectively. And to put a mask on that's plastic on top of a cloth mask, for a child, it's probably not a good idea either.

So I would say, look at the bright side. The kids are wearing masks anyways and so are you. So why not decorate those and make it part of the costume. So I think-- I think I would probably encourage that.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, Hansa, I want to thank you for sharing your insights today. Uh, we'll follow you on Twitter and at WebMD. And we'll check back in and then see how Halloween went.

HANSA BHARGAVA: Thank you, John.

JOHN WHYTE: And thanks for watching "Coronavirus in Context."