Is it safe to Trick-or-Treat during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

In an area where there’s still ongoing community spread of the corona virus, and we still haven’t gotten to the point where everything is back to normal, health experts don’t think trick-or-treating is a great idea.

Believe it or not, the biggest risk in trick-or-treating isn’t the candy you or your kids will be receiving from each of your neighbors. Scientists have found that most of the surface bacteria is thought not to be the main mode of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Getting a piece of candy from a house, bringing it home, and then eating it, health officials think that’s less problematic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the most significant risk of getting sick this Halloween hinges on who you’re actually trick-or-treating with, because close contact is defined as those “who are within six feet of you for more than 10 to 15 minutes.” So follow the guidelines from the CDC and other health professionals:

The main risks when it comes to trick-or-treating are:

  • Joining a big group of trick-or-treaters: Planning to team up with a group of friends to trick-or-treat this Halloween? Know that visiting people from another household or staying close together for hours on end brings with it a risk of transmission, especially in tight quarters where kids can’t keep their masks on (no haunted houses this year!).
  • Face-to-face exposure: Hopefully, your trick-or-treat interaction at any given doorway or front porch is very brief, which means there’s less risk here. But the more households you visit, the greater the chance that germs may be spread and linger — especially as other’s head from door to door, too.
  • Touching candy, toys, doors and other surfaces: It’s the least concerning risk for parents, since washing your hands frequently (or using hand sanitizer) can prevent little ones from carrying germs home. Parents should be concerned if their child is likely to rub their eyes, pick their nose, or put their fingers in their mouth while out and about with dirty hands.

Is it safe to trick-or-treat with friends?

House parties (or any event involving welcoming your neighbors into your home) aren’t safe by any means, health experts warn, but you can limit the COVID-19 risks associated with trick-or-treating outside your home by making sure your trick-or-treat group stays small. Some families may choose to trick-or-treat alone simply because they have at-risk family members at home.

And of course, wear a mask. Since Halloween already involves plenty of masks, it should be easy to incorporate a face covering into your child’s costume, all parents should also be wearing a face mask, too, and if a costume involves a mask that doesn’t sufficiently cover the face, add a proper cloth-based one beneath it.

Other ways to keep your trick-or-treating session safe:

  • Establish ground rules. Your child shouldn’t be digging around a candy bowl, touching multiple pieces. Ask them to choose one and stick with it.  While it’s hard to ask kids not to run around the street, you should ask them to stay as far away from people outside of your household, to continue to do social distancing even outside.
  • Don’t share props, toys or bowls. Keep the swords, wands and tiaras from being passed around if you can. Ask each of your children to hold onto their own candy bags.
  • Bring hand sanitizer, and practice not touching your face. It’s always good to take a break, do a check in and give kids some hand sanitizer to clean their hands between multiple homes. This can also provide an opportunity to give kids a break from wearing a mask if they need it, in a safe spot away from others where they can remove their mask with clean hands.

Should I answer the door for trick-or-treaters?

You’re not a holiday grinch if you decide to skip handing out candy this year. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to limit your interaction with others as much as possible, If you are going to hand out candy in person, make sure you are wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth when giving out candy.

Health experts say COVID-19 risk is lower if the face-to-face interaction is kept short, but you can also wash your hands frequently to ensure you’re not accidentally bringing germs back into your house. It goes without saying that you should also keep all strangers outside of your home, and on your front porch or in your front yard instead. It also might be a good idea at the end of the night to disinfect doorbells, buzzers or other high-touch surfaces outside your home.

Should I use a candy bowl this Halloween?

If you’re anxious about COVID-19, a candy bowl is a perfectly acceptable solution for trick-or-treaters and their hosts. If you’re at higher risk for severe coronavirus symptoms, a candy bowl is the way to go, especially if you live in a high transmission area. As a courtesy to your neighbors, you might consider grouping candy in grab-and-go bags that each visitor can take — it reduces the need for kids to reach into a communal bowl. You can have a bit of fun creating Halloween goodie bags that can be simply left on your porch for visitors to take.

Should I disinfect my child’s candy?

Don’t freak out if your child rips open a chocolate bar and pops it into their mouth while trick-or-treating. COVID 19 isn’t thought to be transmitted this way. Try to really encourage your kids to hold off on eating candy until you get home, and make sure they wash their hands first.

It’s true that SARS-CoV-2 particles can last up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces, but this landmark discovery was made in a laboratory setting, and most Halloween candy holds less surface area to harbor germs. Disinfecting each candy wrapper may be a bit over the top. Something that you can do is to put most of the candy away for the first three days that it’s in your home, and then the rest of the candy should be safe to eat after the time has passed.

If you are planning on celebrating Halloween, here are some simple tips from the Department of Health.

  • Trick-or-treating presents a good opportunity to promote wearing masks.
  • With mask wearing, limited physical contact, and social distancing it can be done with relative safety.
  • Those handing out candy should be low risk (i.e. no older adults or those with underlying health conditions).
  • Trick-or-treaters should limit the number of homes visited to reduce opportunities for exposure and transmission – a single infected child going to 50 homes could be extremely problematic.