October 21, 2021

Is it safe to trick-or-treat this Halloween?

Kaiser Permanente health expert offers advice to safeguard children’s health.

By taking simple steps to protect your children, you can help ensure they will be safe when trick-or-treating this Halloween.

With Halloween approaching, many parents are rightfully asking whether it’ll be safe for their kids to trick-or-treat this year as COVID-19 continues to dominate the news.

The answer is a conditional yes if certain precautions are taken, according to a Kaiser Permanente children’s health expert.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Daisy Dodd, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente in Orange County, California. “Your children are likely to be safer if certain precautions are taken this Halloween. But, if you’re reluctant, you may want to consider something a little bit different to ensure a more controlled environment for your children without taking away the fun.”

According to Dr. Dodd, it should be OK for children to trick-or-treat on Halloween as long as they are outdoors, physically distanced, and in small groups. Other precautions can help keep your kids safe.

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters and people giving out candy.
  • Make sure your child wears a cloth mask that’s not part of his or her costume. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Also, children should not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask, as that can make breathing more difficult.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

Dr. Dodd noted that because children under 12 years old cannot currently be vaccinated against COVID-19, parents may want to consider alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating, where younger kids are likely to interact with other children and adults.

“My message is, if at all possible, keep it within the family, close friends, or relatives, and preferably outdoors, including at a park,” Dr. Dodd noted. “That way, you have a more controlled environment where transmission of the virus is more limited. You know who’s coming rather than going door to door.”

Here are some fun activities that provide alternatives to trick-or-treating.

  • Go on a scavenger hunt. Hide treats and toys in or around your home for your kids to search for, trick-or-treat style.
  • Play Halloween bingo. Give your kids a chart of Halloween-themed things to search for while walking in your neighborhood. Be sure to wear a protective mask — Halloween-themed for extra fun!
  • Host a virtual costume contest. Encourage your family members to dress up in their favorite costumes and show online to friends and family.
  • Have a Halloween movie night. Pop a bowl of popcorn, turn down the lights, and watch your favorite Halloween movies.
  • Hold an outdoor pumpkin carving contest. Carve pumpkins with your kids, friends, and neighbors, then vote for the scariest squash. Remember to physically distance!
  • Decorate your space. Make your living space as scary and fun as you want with Halloween-themed decorations.

“If your children do go out trick-or-treating, for maximum protection, they can wear gloves and not eat any candy while walking around,” Dr. Dodd continued. “Once at home, parents can spread all candy on a table and inspect it by making sure it is well-wrapped and nothing is open. Children should then remove their gloves, wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and then enjoy the sweet treats.

“It’s understandable that for many children, Halloween is a special day of fun and dress-up,” Dr. Dodd continued. “With good planning and precautionary measures, parents can have peace of mind knowing their kids will be safe on this special day.”