For kids, it doesn’t get better than Halloween…after all, this special holiday combines two favorite pastimes: dressing up and eating sweets. Halloween is a treat for lots of parents, too—after all, how often do you get to dress up your cutie in an adorable costume or make memories hunting for the perfect pumpkin?

But with COVID still spreading, Halloween may feel like all trick and no treat…or worse: all sick and no treat. And because catching a dangerous virus is much, MUCH more frightening than any sheet-clad ghost, there are bigger choices to make than simply deciding whether your tyke should masquerade as Elmo or Cookie Monster.

So, is it safe to trick-or-treat? And if not, how can your family celebrate Halloween in a way that keeps everyone healthy?

The activities that seem to put us at the biggest risk for coronavirus infection are ones where people are sharing the same air…usually indoors, usually in a confined space. In these environments, it’s easier for aerosol droplets carrying COVID to travel from one person to another. According the CDC, the Halloween activities that are spookiest in terms of COVID-spread potential are hayrides, trunk-or-treats, crowded costume parties, traveling to rural fall festivals that are not in your area (you could possibly bring the virus along for the ride), indoor haunted houses, and sadly, traditional trick-or-treating. 

Even though trick-or-treat takes place outdoors, there’s no guarantee that the stranger handing out candy will be infection-free or will be masked up and taking other precautions. That means that skipping trick-or-treat is probably the safest choice this year…but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Halloween fun.

If you decide to “ghost” on traditional trick or treat plans, try one of these spine-tingling, low-risk alternatives:

  • Pumpkin carving or painting
  • A Halloween party at home with your family (or, if you have created a pandemic pod, you could possibly include them)
  • A virtual costume contest with friends
  • A candy scavenger hunt in your home or yard
  • A monster movie night with special treats
  • Decorating your home as a family
  • A special Halloween storytelling session (we recommend these Halloween books!)…you could make it extra festive by reading books by flashlight

If you have decided to participate, make sure you’re taking these steps to make trick-or-treat a little less terrifying

If you’re handing out candy:

  • Put treats in individual baggies and line them up so that kids can grab one without pawing a whole bunch of goodies.
  • Stand at a safe distance (at least 6 feet) from the costumed kiddos who approach your door.
  • Wear a face mask (and I’m not just talking the costume variety!).
  • Put out hand sanitizer for kids and families to use when they visit your home.

If you’re begging for treats:

  • Bring your own hand sanitizer and scrub your hands often.
  • Avoid houses where people are gathered in crowds, are not distancing, or are not wearing masks.
  • Before you hit the town, make a plan for what you’ll do if you do approach a house where people aren’t making good choices.
  • Remember, no costume is complete without a face mask…and costume masks are not a substitute for cloth face masks! (That plastic Spider-Man mask might make your tot feel like he’s got superpowers, but the real way to be a hero is to wear a face covering that reduces COVID spread!)
  • Have some candy at home as a substitute for immediately attacking their treasure…meanwhile, let the candy that they collect sit for three days before allowing them to dig in, just to be safe.

And if you or anyone in your family feels even a little bit sick—even if you’re 99% sure it’s a harmless case of the sniffles—put your Halloween plans on hold. Not only is COVID a serious health threat, but we could have a monster of a flu season, too, since healthcare professionals are already stretched so thin fighting coronavirus. 

A Halloween without a traditional trick-or-treat might feel a little like opening up your candy bag and finding it’s all spiders and snakes. But by taking steps to keep your family—and others—safe, you’re doing your part to keep the real frights away!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.