Tips for Safer Trick-or-Treating During COVID-19

Halloween is a time to delight in being just a little bit spooked—but there’s nothing fun about the fear COVID-19 inspires.

For the second year in a row, parents and children will have to navigate trick-or-treating in the midst of a pandemic, now with an extra-scary mutant in our midst (the delta variant).

Fortunately, there are ways to make trick-or-treating safer.

“Trick-or-treating has some good things going for it,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention. “One, it’s outdoors. And two, it’s over a prolonged time period and often covers a lot of ground, so it lends itself to physical distancing.”

Trick-or-treating carries some risk, especially if you live in a community with high case rates. Costumed children tend to congregate in groups and are too young to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine (though that should be changing very soon).

If your kids are trick-or-treating this year, follow these tips to reduce their risk.

  • Trick-or-treat only with those in your household or in a small group. Coach your children to give space to others, such as waiting at the mailbox while another group rings the doorbell.
  • Connect with neighbors to stagger start times so not everyone is out at the same time.
  • If your children are going to spend any time indoors or you doubt their ability to physically distance, add a mask to their costumes that covers the nose and mouth. (Avoid full-face masks that are fun for dress-up but can impair vision and safety.)
  • 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.

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. Wear a mask if it gets crowded, and stay at least 6 feet 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.