MCPS Community Message from the School System Medical Officer Concerning Safety for Halloween and Cold and Flu Season

by Patrick Herron

Per Montgomery County Public Schools:
“Dear MCPS Community,
As we head into November and the cooler weather, I would like to share information about health and safety for Halloween and this year’s cold and flu season:

Influenza, RSV and other respiratory infections

We are paying close attention to the surge of respiratory illness including influenza (flu) cases in our metropolitan region. This week, the Virginia Department of Healthurged residents to prepare for increased respiratory illnesses after a large flu outbreak in a high school attracted national attention. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is another surging infection, with increased numbers straining the capacity of pediatric hospitals. Both influenza and RSV are viruses that cause mild respiratory symptoms in most people, but can be dangerous for very young children, older adults or those with certain medical conditions.

Practicing basic health hygiene practices to avoid the spread of germs, like staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and good hand-washing, is more important than ever. They help prevent flu, RSV and other respiratory illnesses, in addition to COVID-19. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu and having severe symptoms from a flu infection. It is free for anyone older than 6 months, and is especially important for people at increased risk for flu complications.

Currently, there is no vaccine available for RSV. A preventive medication is available for certain infants and children at risk for severe disease (infants born very prematurely, or with congenital heart or lung disease). People at increased risk from RSV infections and their household members should be especially vigilant about preventing respiratory infections, and seek the advice of a health care professional if they develop respiratory symptoms. We will continue to monitor these health trends and keep our community informed.

Additional resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
RSV: When It’s More than Just a Cold
The Flu – What Parents Need to Know

Halloween Safety

Halloween can be a great time to be outside and spend time with friends and neighbors. However, it is also a high-risk time for injuries. Even if you are not participating in Halloween activities, you can take action to keep our neighborhoods safe:

  1. Drive slowly and carefully in neighborhoods where families are trick-or-treating. Be mindful of pedestrians crossing streets, walking along roadways or across driveway entrances. Children in darker costumes may be harder to see in low light. Costumes may restrict peripheral vision and make it difficult for pedestrians to see oncoming cars or other road risks.
  2. Review pedestrian safety with children. Supervise younger children when trick-or-treating and pre-plan safe routes with older children. Safer routes include sidewalks and well-lit areas. Reflective tape on costumes and glow-in-the-dark accessories make it easier for motorists to see pedestrians.
  3. Practice food safety. While concerns about foreign objects or poisons in candy are often highlighted in the media, this happens very rarely and families must also be aware of more common problems from food allergies or choking. Having a snack at home before trick-or-treating can reduce the urge to dip into the treat bag before adults have time to check children’s treats. The safest treats to distribute or accept are commercially wrapped with no signs of possible tampering, with clear allergen information. Parents of young children should check for small toys or candy that may present a choking hazard. Children with significant food allergies should have access to their emergency medication.
  4. Take precautions to prevent common Halloween injuries. Falls and trips related to costume features, fire-related injuries and personal injuries are common during Halloween. See these additional resources for specific advice: Halloween safety tips from SafeKids.org, the National Fire Prevention Association, the Allergy and Asthma Networkand the Food and Drug Administration. A national group of hand surgeon experts offers these tips for safe pumpkin carving.

MCPS continues to monitor health trends with our public health partners and collaborate on health promotion for the community. Thank you for your dedication to the health and safety of our students and staff.

Sincerely,

Patricia Kapunan, M.D., M.P.H.
MCPS Medical Officer”

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