Trick-or-treating risks and safer alternatives

Halloween 2020 will look different than years past, thanks to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Finally, this year, bobbing for apples is out for sure,” said M. Walter Baldauf, MD, an OSF HealthCare pediatrician.

And so, it seems, is traditional trick-or-treating.

Door-to-door trick-or-treating has landed on a list of high-risk activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, in communities where trick-or-treating will take place in 2020, your family can take precautions to be as safe as possible.

Trick-or-treating tips

First, check your local guidelines about trick-or-treating to find out when, how or if trick-or-treating will be allowed in your area.

“Right now there is talk of some local places cancelling trick-or-treating because of increased cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Baldauf said.

If you decide to trick-or-treat with your kids, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Stay at least six feet away from other families.
  • Wear masks. Choose a cloth face mask, which is much more effective at preventing the spread of infection than a traditional Halloween mask. Look for a mask that matches the theme of your costume or the season.
  • Stay close to home. Limit trick-or-treating to trusted friends and family and avoid exposure to large groups.

Avoid the candy bowl

If you’re passing out candy this year, consider an alternative to handing kids their candy, or asking them to use a common bowl.

“If you’re going to put out candy for kids, you should do that so they don’t have to come to the door,” Dr. Baldauf said. “The safest way to pass out candy is with individual servings on a clean surface. They should be placed far enough apart so that they can be picked up one by one by the trick-or-treaters.”

This type of “one-way trick-or-treating” is rated as a moderately risky activity by the CDC. It’s less risky than traditional trick-or-treating, but still carries some risk of spreading the virus.

Lower risk activities

Among the CDC’s list of high-risk activities are door-to-door trick-or-treating (as well as trunk-or-treats), crowded costume parties and indoor haunted houses.

Visiting orchards and pumpkin patches, outdoor parties and “haunted forests” are listed as moderately risky.

These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with your family
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your home
  • Going on a Halloween scavenger hunt. Give children lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Watching a Halloween movie with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home, rather than going house to house

About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale is a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: COVID-19, Kids & Family