How to celebrate Halloween safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

This video is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox.

Halloween can still be spooktacular with a little planning and imagination. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital, offers families guidance and ideas that will keep the spirit of the season alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the basic rules that families should follow to keep their kids safe during Halloween?

The two most important things families can do to keep their kids safe is masking and social distancing. All families -  but especially individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 - should stay home and avoid large gatherings. Other basic rules are as follows:

  • Continue washing hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Remember to clean your hands before touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food or candy.
  • Please stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, new loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow "Dracula style" when coughing or sneezing.

 What are some safe ways that families can celebrate Halloween safely?

Invite your child's friends to a virtual party with activities such as a costume contest, pumpkin carving and more.

  • The safest way is to have a virtual Halloween party! Invite your child's friends to a virtual party where you can even host activities such as a costume contest, dance party, pumpkin carving, or caramel apple decorating.
  • As pediatricians, we recommend eating candy in moderation. Instead of trick or treating, you can have a family game night or virtual game night with friends where your child can earn candy.
  • Alternatively, have your children go on a scavenger hunt for candy and other fun knick-knacks around the house or set up a glow-in-the-dark hunt in the backyard, by hiding glow bracelets inside small candy bags.
  • Instead of going to a crowded public haunted house, try creating one in your own home! Your kids can help you decorate the house with pumpkins, ghosts made of pillowcases, and witch hats made of paper. Use pipe cleaners and string to hang spiders around the house.
  • If your kids are older or love scary movies, kick back at home and watch Netflix or share ghost stories.
  • If you decide to go trick-or-treating, wear a mask outdoors or near people who do not live in your household. Travel in small groups and avoid large gatherings.
  • If you are providing candy to trick-or-treaters, avoid having a giant bowl that multiple kids reach into. It's safer to have an adult hand out the candy individually.
  • For trunk-or-treat events, make sure that the cars are parked more than six feet apart. Social distancing during these events is also key!
  • Talk with your neighbors about "reverse trick-or-treating": instead of having the kids go door to door, let the candy come to you! Kids can stand in their front yard showing off their cool costumes, while adults drive by and throw candy into their yard. 
  • Search your local area for some drive-through Halloween events like contactless haunted houses or drive-in movies.

Will a costume mask keep my child safe from COVID-19?

A mask that covers your child's nose and mouth and has two or more layers will provide the best protection from COVID-19. Masks with vents or other holes in them do not provide enough protection. Try decorating a cloth mask to match your child's costume.

In addition to wearing a proper mask, it is important to stay at least six feet away from people who do not live in your household. Do NOT put a mask on children under 2 years old, someone who has difficulty breathing, or someone who cannot remove the mask themselves. Check out mask guidelines on the CDC website for more information.

Related links

CDC guidelines on Halloween 2020

COVID-19 and Halloween safety tips - American Academy of Pediatrics