Share on Pinterest
Experts say there are many ways adults and kids can celebrate Halloween safely this year, but they still recommend parents consider taking the following COVID-19 precautions for unvaccinated children. Getty Images
  • Though the COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available for kids under 12, it won’t arrive in time for them to be protected during Halloween.
  • The good news is this Halloween season looks very different from a year ago in terms of the pandemic.
  • There are safe ways for kids to enjoy trick-or-treating this year.

Although kids under 12 years old won’t have a chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine before they put on their costumes and trick or treat, Halloween looks less scary than it did last year.

In fact, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently went on record encouraging people to enjoy Halloween, stating trick-or-treating likely has a very low COVID-19 risk.

“Particularly if you’re vaccinated, you can get out there — you’re outdoors for the most part,” he said during a CNN interview.

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says parents don’t have to tap into their super creative side this year like many did last year by building candy chutes or holding virtual costume parties.

Still, COVID-19 continues to circulate, so taking the following precautions can help keep this spooky and fun day a safe one, too.

The AAP suggests limiting trick-or-treating to small groups and staying outside.

“Activities in smaller groups are [less] risky because you are limiting the number of potential source exposures and allowing for better social distancing,” Hannah Newman, MPH, CIC, director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline.

She added that trick-or-treating outdoors is a festive activity that can be enjoyed with adequate ventilation.

“Just remember to be mindful of social distancing and avoiding crowds of people,” Newman said.

For those who are giving out candy or snacks for trick-or-treaters, consider handing out individually wrapped items.

“Though fomite (i.e., surface) transmission doesn’t play a large role in COVID spread, it’s smart to stay vigilant with hand hygiene practices and grab these treats with clean hands,” Newman said.

You can also sit outside and place individually prepackaged treats or nonedible items like stickers, glow sticks, bubbles, or temporary tattoos on a table for kids to grab.

Because the coronavirus can spread through very small respiratory droplets, often referred to as aerosols, Jason Tetro, microbiologist and host of the “Super Awesome Science Show,” suggested wearing a mask during Halloween activities, especially in areas with high rates of COVID-19.

“It’s best to make sure the mouth and nose are covered with a mask or some other covering. It’s more important to do this indoors but also even when outdoors, where the risk is significantly lower, a mask helps keep kids safe,” Tetro told Healthline.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that masks should cover the mouth and nose, and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps.

For extra protection, pick a mask with layers.

Take note that masks that are part of a costume won’t protect against coronavirus transmission like surgical or cloth masks can.

A costume party or haunted house screams Halloween.

However, Tetro said to stick to outside Halloween festivities this year, “so that we can take advantage of natural dilution of those droplets/aerosols.”

Once COVID-19 is in check, he said indoor activities can resume.

Taking part in fun fall and Halloween activities like corn mazes, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and apple picking can get you in the mood.

“Every activity is going to carry some level of risk. The key factors to consider are local transmission rates, ventilation, number of people, and vaccination status. Ventilation, masking, and social distancing will be key,” Newman said.

The AAP recommends that children wash their hands when they return from trick-or-treating.

Keeping hand sanitizer with them as they trick or treat can provide additional protection.

“We also know that the virus can spread through surfaces, and so the use of hand sanitizer would be a great way to prevent self-inoculation when they put their fingers in their mouths,” Tetro said.

While the majority of trick-or-treaters will be unvaccinated, Tetro said kids above the age of 11 who are vaccinated should still follow safety protocols.

“I would suggest they follow the same advice as above. Yes, they are protected, but as we do know that breakthrough infections can happen and no one wants that, especially after Halloween,” he said.

Newman added that vaccination provides great protection, but families should decide what level of risk they are comfortable taking.

“It’s important to note that maximal protection is reached 2 weeks after the second inoculation, so some of the more conservative recommendations still apply to partially vaccinated children,” she said.

If children live with an at-risk household member, Newman said Halloween activities should be looked at as a risk assessment to protect the at-risk relative or housemate.

“For example, trick-or-treating outdoors for a vaccinated child would be low risk of bringing COVID home. It might, however, be reasonable to avoid higher-risk activities indoors to protect vulnerable household members who are at higher risk for severe disease,” she said.

Tetro agreed, stressing that protecting those who are high risk is paramount.

“Anyone who happens to be around these individuals needs to be sure they are doing all they can to reduce the risk. Masks again are the best approach,” he said.

If you’re very concerned for a household member, Newman said one way to take precautions is to physically distance within the home after participating in Halloween activities until the incubation period has ended, which is 2 to 14 days according to the CDC.

However, if there’s a household member who’s at high risk of COIVID-19, you may want to reconsider participating in Halloween activities with non-household members.

“There’s a lot that a family can do to celebrate in their own household, too. Some ideas to get families into the Halloween spirit at home include pumpkin decorating, Halloween-themed arts and crafts, or a costumed movie night or dinner,” she said.