You pack your kiddos into the car and head to the most autumnal of family events—the picking out of pumpkins at the pumpkin patch. As you go through the glorious gourds, perusing each pumpkin carefully to ensure that it’s outrageously orange and perfect, a thought crosses your mind: how many other people have poked and prodded this pumpkin before you? And since we’re in the age of COVID-19, you might ask yourself if you need to disinfect your pumpkin after bringing it home.
Before you plop that pumpkin on your kitchen counter, you should definitely take some time to wash it, advises Dr. Patrick Hill, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Beverly Hills. “The primary method of transmission of COVID-19 is respiratory droplets, but it is possible for a person to contract the virus by touching a surface or object, such as pumpkins at a pumpkin patch,” says Dr. Hill. Which makes it even more of a reason to bring along the hand sanitizer and masks while you’re picking out pumpkins with your family.
Although the risk of transmission might be low, COVID-19 can live on certain surfaces for up to three days, a study found. So if you factor in how many families have gone through the same pumpkin patch as you (and probably touched the very pumpkin you purchased), well, then it’s quite possible that your gourd has some ghoulishly scary stuff on its surface. Says Dr. Hill: “There is evidence to suggest that the virus can survive on surfaces for up to three days, therefore it is recommended that certain objects likely to be handled by many different people, such as pumpkins at a pumpkin patch during Halloween season, should be disinfected upon contacting or purchasing.”
But if you thought that the Coronavirus was the only virus you could potentially catch when carving your pumpkin, think again. “Cleaning a pumpkin is a good idea because it removes the fungal spores and bacteria on the surface and will preserve the pumpkin longer,” advises Dr. Leann Poston, MD, M.B.A, M.Ed, a medical doctor in Ohio. “It will also remove COVID, but the other two pathogens are probably more likely.” There are a couple of ways in which you can kill the virus so that the pumpkin will be ready for carving with your little cuties. “You can add one tablespoonful of bleach to one gallon of water, then wipe the pumpkin and then let it air dry,” says Dr. Poston. If you don’t want to use chemicals to kill COVID-19, another alternative is to let your pumpkin disinfect naturally outside. “If you’re hesitant to disinfect the pumpkin, you can always set it in a safe space, such as your yard or balcony, to naturally disinfect over a three-day span,” says Dr. Hill. “After the three-day quarantine, your pumpkin should be considered safe. Just remember to wash your hands after handling!”
Ultimately, the chances of catching COVID-19 from a pumpkin are pretty low — but it’s not entirely impossible. Make sure that everyone washes their hands well after your trip to the pumpkin patch, clean your pumpkin well once it’s home, and soon, you’ll have a scary jack-o-lantern that is creepishly cool — and safe from COVID-19.