Can we Have Halloween? Tips for Safe Trick or Treating

Halloween candy, decorations and costumes have hit store shelves and online retailers. Every parent is probably wondering if he or she should spend the money on a costume this year. Besides, is trick-or-treating even a thing during a pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against it, and medical experts agree it’s not the safest way to celebrate this year.

However, if you decide your family will trick-or-treat, there are some precautions you should take. Abigail Stein, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician with TriHealth’s Group Health Western Hills. She answered all the burning questions you may have about Halloween this year and offered some spooktacular low-risk alternatives to celebrate the day.

Is it safe for kids to trick-or-treat this year?

“As long as appropriate precautions are being taken, I’m less worried about a child getting sick from trick-or-treating than I am about them attending Halloween parties, being in play groups or daycare. For example, if it’s your child and one other child who they play with already trick-or-treating together, going to 10 houses in their neighborhood, wearing masks and staying away from others, there’s probably less risk than going to school for six hours. The safest houses to visit will be those who have individually wrapped bags and candy lined up for you to grab while they still maintain their distance from you.”

“That said, how safe it is really depends on your family’s situation. If someone in your household is high-risk, allowing your kids to go house-to-house is probably not a good idea. If somebody really wants no risk, he or she (and their family members) should stay home this year.”

What precautions should trick-or-treating families take?

“First of all, unless a child goes dressed as a surgeon, Halloween costume masks are not protective masks! Depending on the type of Halloween costume mask, it may not be safe to layer this over a protective mask, as it could make it harder to breathe. The safest option would be to use a Halloween-themed cloth mask and avoid Halloween costume masks. Cinderella and all our other favorites this year will look just as fun with a protective mask. It’s similar to Halloween when it’s cold out. You could be a cowboy, but a cowboy wearing a jacket. Also, if you or your child wake up not feeling well, this is not the year to go out.”

“Also, remember the safety precautions you hear about every year. Parents need to look at their kids’ candy before the children eat it to make sure it wasn’t opened and then resealed. Make sure your kids have lights, like glowsticks, somewhere outside their costumes so they’re visible at night while crossing the street.”

Is trunk-or-treating safer than trick-or-treating?

“Trunk-or-treats, when people gather in a parking lot to hand out candy from their cars, are the exact opposite of what we want during the pandemic. Those events involve a group of people staying in each other’s vicinity for an extended period of time. The guidelines define exposure as any time you are within six feet of someone who is infected, for 15 minutes, unmasked. Since trunk-or-treats happen outdoors, it can lead to more people opting not to wear masks and increase chances of exposure.”

Is it safe to hand out candy at home?

“If you want to minimize risk but still hand out candy, the best way to do so would be to individually wrap goodie bags and line them up in a way that is easy for families to pick up from your yard while you maintain your distance from them. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands before putting them together and setting them out. The more you are able to physically distance yourself from trick-or-treaters and the less you interact with and chit-chat with them, the safer and better. Ideally, you’re wearing a mask, and the kids are spending only a few seconds picking up candy and then running away.”

Can I throw a Halloween party this year?

“It’s the same as any party right now — we don’t recommend large groups getting together, especially with people you don’t know. It’s recommended to keep gatherings to 10 or 12 people. Outdoor gatherings are safer and wearing your masks when possible is crucial. The idea is to limit your exposure, whether it’s from children or adults. For every child, usually, there’s one adult. If your child is going to school in person, it may be best to just invite some of the kids he or she sees every day so none of them are exposed to entirely new people.”

What are some lower-risk activities families can try?

  • Carve or paint pumpkins
  • Have a Halloween movie night
  • Do a scavenger hunt
  • Decorate cookies
  • Design your own haunted house
  • Make Halloween crafts
  • Stream music, like “The Monster Mash,” for a dance party
  • Have a virtual costume contest

Content for this article courtesy of Baptist Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, FL

Tags Infectious Disease , Parenting

Last Updated: October 14, 2020