UNC Health Talk

Is It Safe to Trick-or-Treat?

For the young and the young at heart, one of the highlights of fall is Halloween—masquerading through neighborhoods with a bucket of sweet delights is a hallmark of childhood for many. But is it safe to trick-or-treat during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic?

Although it is done outdoors—a plus because fresh air dilutes the virus—trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The challenge with trick-or-treating is how potentially dense your trick-or-treating community is, as our usual way of trick-or-treating is to go in large packs,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention. “Some neighborhoods and housing communities are pretty dense, which means you could come into contact with a lot of other people.”

Tips for Safe Trick-or-Treating

If there is not a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in your community, there are some steps you can take to make trick-or-treating possible for young goblins and witches, including:

  • Trick-or-treat only with those in your household or in a small group.
  • Connect with neighbors to stagger start times, so not everyone is out at the same time.
  • Make sure everyone wears a mask—you can work it into the costume!
  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating any treats, and be sure to carry hand sanitizer while out and about in case your child is tempted to taste a treat before getting home.
  • Set out candy on a porch step or driveway as opposed to handing it out. If you want to be sure nobody swipes the whole bowl, set up a chair and watch trick-or-treaters from a distance of at least 6 feet.
  • If you think you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, do not participate in any in-person Halloween festivities and do not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

If your child does not want to wear a mask and cannot stay at least 6 feet apart from other children, or if you live in a dense area where you and your children cannot avoid close contact with others while trick-or-treating, consider finding other ways to enjoy Halloween.

Safety Tips for Other Fun Fall Activities

In addition to trick-or-treating, other fall activities include visiting pumpkin patches, haunted houses and fall festivals. This year, look for outdoor fall fun, and avoid anything indoors, including haunted houses.

“Indoor group settings where lots of people are congregating are more risky than outdoor activities,” Dr. Sickbert-Bennett says.

Even with outdoor activities such as a visit to the pumpkin patch, be aware of how much space you have and how many people might be in that space. Be sure to wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart from others.

“Be aware of your health and wellness on days when you have an activity planned, and make sure that you’re only going out when you’re feeling well,” Dr. Sickbert Bennett says.

Remember to use hand sanitizer when you get back to your car, and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.