This year, the month of October comes with two important health concerns: Halloween and the flu season. Many parents are wondering if they can safely take their kids trick-or-treating, and health officials are strongly urging everyone to get a flu vaccine. Learn more about what the experts have to say about these health concerns and read about the increasing popularity of mindfulness apps in this week's Insider News.
Should kids go trick-or-treating during a pandemic? Experts share their advice. from The Washington Post
When it comes to deciding whether or not kids should participate in trick-or-treating on Halloween this year, experts recommend several strategies for assessing the risk and staying safe.
The most important factor in this decision should be understanding the infection rate in your community, says Jared Muenzer, pediatric emergency room doctor and physician-in-chief at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Other family members' health risks should also be taken into consideration. Elderly family members and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and COPD are at greater risk for serious COVID-19 illness.
For families who decide to go trick-or-treating, safety tips include:
- Wear a face mask--a costume mask is not a safe substitute
- Follow social-distancing guidelines
- Avoid crowding around doorsteps and porches
- Use hand sanitizer after each house
- Do not eat candy while trick-or-treating
- Wash hands immediately after getting home
Mass.gov has also released their own tips for a safe and healthy Halloween, which includes more comprehensive guidelines to keep in mind when handing out candy or trick-or-treating.
According to a survey of 1,000 American adults by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, just 59% plan to get a flu vaccine, despite strong recommendations from hospitals across the country.
Other findings include:
- Nearly half are concerned about a co-infection of the flu and COVID-19, but just 28% say the pandemic makes it more likely they'll get vaccinated this year.
- 62% of Black adults were uncertain about getting a flu vaccine, despite bearing a disproportionate burden of serious flu illness.
- 25% say that drive-thru clinics and other settings beyond medical offices and pharmacies would make them more likely to get vaccinated.
The CDC estimates that there were 22,000 deaths that resulted from flu illnesses during the previous flu season. In addition, 93% of adults who were hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season possessed an underlying medical condition. Increasing the number of vaccinations this year will dramatically reduce the burden on our health care system.
Peace of mind: there’s an app for that from McLean Hospital
With mindfulness practices on the rise, especially following the start of the pandemic, many people are turning to mobile apps to support their mental health. According to a recent survey of 300 patients at McLean Hospital, a leading center for psychiatric care, research, and education, almost half had at least one mental health or wellness app currently downloaded on their phone. Of those, 71% of the apps patients were using were focused on mindfulness or meditation.
These apps offer guided meditation sessions or trainings designed to reduce stress. Breathing and relaxation exercises, tips on a good night's sleep, and resources from experts are all some of the typical features.
As with most wellness-centered activities, the key to seeing benefits from these apps is consistent engagement. Using the app regularly, the same way one would make exercise a part of their routine, is the best way to achieve better health outcomes.