Here's what you can do to keep your kids safe this Halloween.

By Emily VanSchmus
Updated September 24, 2020
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As fall quickly approaches, it’s become clear that the pandemic will affect Halloween. And though some neighborhoods have already canceled trick-or-treating this year, the safety regulations vary so much by state that the tradition will likely be allowed to happen in some areas. But we’re already asking ourselves the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind: If my neighborhood allows trick-or-treating, should I let my kids go? This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its recommendations on the safest and most dangerous Halloween activities. Plus, we talked to Dr. Bita Nasseri, a physician, and mother of three, about the potential risks that come with trick-or-treating this year.

Two little girls in Halloween costumes trading candy on a sofa
Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

If your neighborhood allows trick-or-treating, should you go?

According to Nasseri, and the CDC, the short answer to this question is no. She says that though you can have great intentions of social distancing as you trick-or-treat, it’s not always a reliable plan when children are involved. “Although our goal is to be 100% committed to six feet of separation, children get excited and it will be very difficult to police their separations,” she says. “Going in even small groups, traveling your neighborhood from home to home creates a risk of carrying unwanted exposures.” The CDC notes that one-way trick-0r-treating, which they describe as "individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance," poses a "moderate risk." 

Nasseri said the idea of doing activities as a large bubble or a “pod” is another one that’s great in theory but doesn’t always work as well as you think it will. “Keeping children and chaperones six feet apart is very difficult during trick-or-treating parades through the neighborhoods,” she says. “The concept of keeping your crowd in a bubble or a pod is completely jeopardized by exposure to larger groups from your neighborhood.” 

Nasseri also points out that the pandemic isn’t the only thing we have to worry about when it comes to trick-or-treating. “October is well into the fall cold and the flu season. Not only we don’t want the spread of COVID, we also don’t want the spread of the flu and cross-reactivity of signs and symptoms,” she says.

What about handing out candy?

Okay, so trick-or-treating is out—but is it safe to stay home and pass out candy to the people who do come to the door? Nasseri suggests waiting until next year. “Ideally you don’t want person-to-person handling of Halloween candies,” she says. Even if you can provide candy without physically interacting (like leaving a full candy bowl on the front porch), she explains you can’t control the risk of transmitting the virus on the candy wrappers. If you decide to do a socially distanced trick-or-treat in your neighborhood and you're making treat bags, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing them.

What can you do instead?

Instead of the traditional door-to-door event, Nasseri recommends coordinating a fun indoor trick-or-treat event for your kids: Set up trick-or-treat stations around your house and have the kids go from room to room collecting treats and prizes while limiting exposure to other people. Kids are probably going to miss a fun evening with their friends, so you could set up a virtual costume contest, per the CDC recommendations. If you need inspiration, check out these 10 fun trick-or-treating alternatives you can try this year.  

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