Can COVID-19 Spread Through Trick-Or-Treating? An Expert Answers
I'd argue that my 4 year old loves begging for candy on Halloween night more than she loves finding presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning. I obviously want her to experience that joy again this year, but I have to ask, how easily can COVID spread through trick-or-treating? Is it possible for her to load up on all the candy she wants while still being safe and responsible?
The CDC has traditional trick-or-treating on their list of high risk activities, but it's not the candy or wrappers that make put it into that category — it's the close contact. "Surface transmission is the least likely way to contract the coronavirus," infectious disease specialist Sandra Kesh, M.D., tells Romper via email. "Additionally, most candy holds less surface area to harbor germs." She acknowledges that studies have shown the virus can live for up to 72 hours on certain surfaces but notes, "this discovery was made in a lab setting and not the real world."
Still, trick-or-treating has the potential to increase spread of the virus, especially if precautions aren't in place. "The highest risk is being face to face with somebody who is infected," Dr. Kesh explains. "Being outdoors is your best option and staying socially distanced and wearing masks will still be important to the reduce risk of exposure."
Dr. Kesh stresses the importance of hand-washing and using hand sanitizer throughout the night to further reduce the risk of surface spread. Additionally, she recommends "putting out a candy bowl and letting children take from that" as opposed to greeting trick-or-treaters at the door and personally handing them pieces of candy. Contactless trick-or-treating doesn't have to be dull according to Dr. Kesh. "I have seen some people with the idea to pin candies to garden stakes out on their front lawn or even pass the candies through tubes going down their staircase," she says.
Once the kiddos return home with their buckets of candy, if parents want to be extra careful they can either "wipe down the wrappers as a precaution" or let the candy sit for 72 hours before allowing the kids to dig in, says Dr. Kesh. However, she notes that this step is "taking extra precaution" since the risk of surface spread in this way is so low.
Trick-or-treating will definitely look a lot different this year than it has in years past, but it can still be a good (safe) time. Just remember to keep your distance from other people, wear your mask, and bring the hand sanitizer.
Sandra Kesh M.D., Deputy Medical Director and Infectious Disease Specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York