In years past, all you had to worry about on Halloween was someone TP-ing your house or maybe even egging your car. But things have certainly taken on a more sinister tone this Halloween, where you now have to worry about potentially exposing your kiddos to COVID-19 as they’re collecting their candy. So it might make you wonder if it’s safe to go trick-or-treating this year?
The U.S. is certainly entering the second phase of this deadly virus, which, to date, has killed over 225,000 Americans. That’s why you might worry if it’s worth the risk of taking your costumed kiddo out to snag some loot (like Snickers or Milky Way bars) that you probably already have at home. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has offered guidelines that parents can use to adjust their expectations of the holidays, such as carving pumpkins, having a scary movie night, or a scavenger-style trick-or-treat search in lieu of going door-to-door.
But what if your kiddos are clamoring to get their costumes on and head outside? You can have all the fun of Halloween, especially if you do so safely, advises Dr. William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. “It’s often the case that 1, 2, or 3 families go together. You have more parents along to guide the kids,” Dr. Schaffner says. “This year, keep them separate by going with fewer families, or even you’re your own.”
Another element to consider is how long you stay outside. While this Halloween promises to be particularly spooky with the Halloween Blue Moon lighting up the night sky, you might want to limit the amount of time spent hitting up your neighbors’ houses. “Parents should definitely consider taking their kids to fewer homes,” says Dr. Schaffner. “The less homes you visit, the lower the risk.”
And when you’re standing on a doorstep waiting for tricks or treats, it might be a good idea to space your kids from the howlingly scary homeowners inside. “When you ring the doorbell, you should step back right away,” advises Dr. Schaffner. “Because those of us who answer the bell have to remember to put on our masks, and when we’re in our own homes, we don’t wear masks and might forget to put it on.”
But the tricks don’t stop there. Once your kid scores some candy, they’ll need to keep their hands clean. “You should hand sanitize at least every time you receive treats,” Dr. Rajeev Fernando, MD, an infectious disease physician, tells Celebrity Parents. And if you’re friendly with your neighbors, you can always ask them to offer candy in other ways. “Parents can also ask the neighbors to leave candy at the doorstep, thereby minimizing contact.” Since COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours (and even up to a couple of days), make sure that your child doesn’t tear open a candy and pop it in their mouth before first cleaning their hands and checking the treat yourself.
So, if you decide that it’s just too spooky to search for treats on Halloween this year, just know that you do have other options. You can always have a frighteningly fun Halloween fiesta in your home with the little witches who warm your heart (read: your children). “Unless it’s within a household, I recommend skipping the indoor Halloween party,” says Dr. Fernando. “We know COVID-19 can spread effectively with crowding in closed spaces. Have a virtual party instead.”
Knowing if it’s safe to go trick-or-treating this year is something that many parents are struggling with. After all, Halloween definitely seems a lot scarier this year, on so many levels. But by taking some precautions, you can still have a spooktacular (and safe) Halloween that’s full of treats—and no tricks.