Safe Trick or Treat


While the Centers for Disease Control advised canceling Trick or Treat in 2020, this year their recommendation is to stay outdoors and avoid crowds. CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky advises parents to take kids trick or treating in small groups and to skip crowded indoor parties.

If you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask outdoors unless you’re going to a venue that requires masks. Indoors, if you are with members of your own household whom you know to be vaccinated, you can skip masks. Children still cannot be vaccinated, so those over two years of age should wear masks at indoor events.

Can candy spread disease?

Outdoor trick or treating is a safer option than indoor parties. Researchers at UC San Diego determined last year that the risk of catching COVID-19 from Halloween candy is very low. If you’re handing out candy, wash your hands before you start answering the door. This reduces the danger even further.

Consider putting out a bowl of candy on the porch instead of directly handing it to children. The UCSD study found that washing wrapped candy reduced the danger of infection to near zero — but they don’t recommend using bleach, since it can get through the candy wrappers and contaminate the candy. 

This might also be a good year to think about alternative treats

What about costume masks?

Halloween costume masks are not intended as protective gear, and they won’t do the job.  Kids also shouldn’t wear protective masks under plastic Halloween masks.

There are Halloween-themed protective masks you can purchase to go with your costume. Or, get creative and use markers to draw on a solid paper or fabric face mask to make a mask that matches the theme of your costume. Face paint is also a good alternative to costume masks.

While you’re thinking about costume safety, choose costumes that are not too long or too baggy. Lots of excess fabric can look dramatic, but it can also trip kids, get caught in branches, and get stepped on. Sensible shoes like sneakers make the most sense for active trick or treating.

Plan your route

Take small children out while it’s still light and stay in your neighborhood for the safest, least scary experience. 

Older kids may want to go back to their usual trick-or-treat traditions but talk about possibilities first. When you’re out trick or treating, use the same social distance guidelines you’re been using. Ideally, you’ll travel with your family members and keep six feet between your household and the next household. If kids from the next family get carried away and rush up to join your kids, it makes sense to step back and avoid the crush. 

Talk about this before you go out, so your children will resist the natural impulse to compete for candy. Chances are very low that those over-exuberant kids will take all the treats. If you discuss this ahead of time, it will be easier for your kids to maintain that social distance. 

You may also want to agree before you go out on a certain number of houses or streets to visit. Maybe next year we can all go back to no-holds-barred trick or treat, but this year, aim for a modest haul and then head home to watch movies or play games with your family.