After a long six months at home, my kids are ridiculously ready to celebrate Halloween this year. They've got their costumes picked out and their routes mapped. But, before I let them hit the pavement in search of sugary snacks, I have some questions about trick-or-treating this year. Thanks to COVID-19, I bet I'm not the only one wondering
if trick-or-treating is even safe in 2020.
"Trick-or-treating can be made safer with some creative thinking,"
Dr. Stephanie Hemm with LifeBridge Health Pediatrics at Loch Raven tells Romper. "The typical scene of five or six unrelated people though, huddled within 3 to 4 feet of each other, all reaching into a bowl of candy or toys using their bare and unclean hands isn't the wisest choice."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines for safely participating in
holiday activities in 2020 during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door," is listed as high risk. As an alternative, the CDC website states that placing individual goodie bags at the end of the driveway or edge of the yard for trick-or-treaters to grab while staying socially distant only poses a moderate risk.
So, what does this all mean for trick-or-treating in 2020? "We certainly don't need to deprive the kids of all the fun," Hemm explains. "Taking a step back and figuring out the parts of the traditions that are important to your kids may make this unusual year a little easier."
If you still have questions about how this will all go down on October 31, read on.
Should you wear masks to go trick-or-treating?
While your local or state government may already require a face covering to be worn in public, physicians advise remaining vigilant with mask-wearing while trick-or-treating. "If you and your child will be out and about crossing paths with other families, it is essential that everyone has a mask on,"
Dr. Sunitha D. Posina, MD, board-certified internist in New York tells Romper.
A traditional Halloween mask à la Freddy Kreuger won't cut it, though. Stick to cloth face masks or surgical masks if available, Posina says. You can make cloth masks more desirable for kids to wear by matching them to their costume or helping them decorate them in a Halloween theme. For kids under 2 years of age who are still too young to wear a mask safely, Posina says parents should evaluate the risks "based on their region and local ordinances" to determine if trick-or-treating is safe this year or if alternative plans should be made.
One important tip for parents from Hemm is to supervise kiddos while out and about to make sure they're following health and safety precautions like mask-wearing. "If you choose to allow your children to go trick-or-treating in the usual manner, you should go with them, if possible, to make sure they follow the rules," she says.
Do we need to disinfect candy?
This is a tricky question, and the answer will really depend on how comfortable you are with the way your kids receive candy on Halloween. The biggest point to consider when it comes to germs and candy is how treats are exchanged and collected.
"Avoid that big bowl of candy that a bunch of random people reach into to get their favorites," Hemm says. "However, a table laid out with separated candy would work. Also making little individual sacks with a few pieces of candy in each may work as well."
And what about those
candy chutes on porches that some people are setting up to help keep germs at bay? "They are probably not necessary, but they do add a little novelty to an otherwise odd year," Hemm tells Romper.
But, to be on the safe side, Posina tells Romper, "Out of an abundance of caution, yes," parents should disinfect candy. "This is because we have no way of knowing for sure who touched that candy prior to it landing in your child's basket. Cleaning wrapped candy with alcohol or disinfectant wipe when getting home would help clear up any stress of the virus coming in like that."
Is trick-or-treating safe if it's done outdoors?
outdoor activities are generally considered less likely to spread COVID-19, Posina explains that even when trick-or-treating is done outdoors, "it is not risk-free."
"Trick-or-treating is considered a high-risk activity as children have to knock on doors, and families are coming into contact with many people on sidewalks, parks, and on their way to neighbors' doors," Posina tells Romper.
However, parents can still utilize elements of trick-or-treating to cash in on Halloween fun with their kids. "As a mom and a pediatrician, I've been trying to balance this myself," Hemm says. Remote candy collecting from driveways and lawn edges, picnics, scavenger hunts, pumpkin carving, and car parades (all socially-distanced) are fun outdoor Halloween activities that families can engage in this year to lower chances of viral exposure.
"With a little creativity, you'll be able to ensure they get the feel-good Halloween we all want, even if it's a little different than usual," Hemm tells Romper.
What is the biggest issue with trick-or-treating safely this year?
"The biggest issue is that coronavirus is still a very real issue, and there is a lot you cannot control when you are out and about, partaking in a festivity that brings your family into close contact with many people," Posina tells Romper.
When weighing the risks of engaging in traditional trick-or-treating this year, it's important to consider how COVID-19 risks play into your plans. This may look different depending on where you live and how your family generally engages with others when out on your usual candy prowl.
"People who typically have to trick-or-treat in apartment buildings should reconsider their plans, as well as those who go door to door in their neighborhood," Posina says. "There are fun alternatives to celebrate Halloween, the CDC actually published a
helpful guide of alternatives that are safer for parents to practice this year."
Is there anyone who should avoid trick-or-treating altogether this year?
"Anyone in the traditionally
higher risk categories should very seriously consider not trick-or-treating this year because it can be a high-risk activity," Hemm tells Romper. "You really want to keep your family from getting COVID-19 if at all possible because it can cause severe complications."
The decision of whether or not to go trick-or-treating this year and if you can do so safely truly depends on your family's own health considerations.
"One thing that will definitely help give parents clarity is the current state of the virus in your city and state. Families that live in a multigenerational household could be risking bring the virus home to a more elderly or ill loved one, so that is also something to keep in mind," Posina explains. "While Halloween is an opportunity to bring back a sense of normalcy to our children after this tumultuous pandemic, it is important that adults find the safest alternatives that still allow children to dress up, play games, and share with the family."
Experts: Dr. Sunitha D. Posina, MD, board-certified internist and locum hospitalist in New York Dr. Stephanie Hemm, LifeBridge Health Pediatrics at Loch Raven