There are a million questions. Should we go trick-or-treating with our friends? Is it safe to collect candy from all these different houses? Well, experts note that trick-or-treating even with key precautions still has risks parents need to weigh.

“If you live in an area where there is still a high incidence of COVID-19 neither I nor the CDC recommends trick-or-treating door-to-door,” said Dr. Kleist.

“If you live in an area where there is still a moderate incidence of COVID-19, you need to decide if trick-or-treating is worth the risk to you and your family based on your specific situation,” said Dr. Kleist. The easiest way to determine the COVID-19 risk level in your community go to where the Harvard Global Health Institute has an interactive map that details COVID risk level by county. Even if you live in an area with a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases, you will want to take a few extra precautions.

“Outdoor socially distanced trick-or-treating may be okay for some children, but families should recognize that any social interaction may increase their family’s risk and that this year is going to be very different from last year. You can reduce your risk by following a few guidelines,” Dr. Kleist added.

Scientists don’t currently think that surface spread is not the main mode of COVID-19 transmission. Getting a piece of candy, putting it in your pumpkin and coming home and eating it – isn’t the biggest risk to your children.

Some of the biggest risks for this Halloween are:

  • WHO you are trick-or-treating with. Close contact is defined as people who are within six feet of you for more than 10-15 minutes according to the CDC. It’s recommended to not join a big block party or group of trick-or-treaters this year but to stick to just your family and keep your masks on.
  • Face to Face time. Keep your candy collection interactions brief. Trick-or-treat exchanges on the porch need to be brief and socially distanced. Know that the more households you visit the greater chance for germs to spread and linger – so keep it quick and move on.
  • Communal Candy Collection. Putting hands in big candy bowls and digging out the pieces you like the most isn’t the way to go this Halloween. This might be the year for the small goodie bags already portioned out or candy in bags that can be placed by the adult into bags without children having to reach and root around in a big bowl for them. Encourage kids to use hand sanitizer throughout the route and wash hands often, and especially before eating anything from their tour around the neighborhood.

The experts add to skip the house parties and school dances this year to limit your COVID-19 risk. “It’s best to limit your group to just your family. If you do choose to be with other friends, choose people that you know have been practicing social distancing and limiting their own exposure as well.” And, Dr. Kleist adds, “Don’t be offended if a family doesn’t want to join you. They may have a high risk family member at home that they want to protect and need to take extra care.”

Parents need to go over the new ground rules early and make sure everyone understands before you set out to collect your loot.

  • Make sure your children understand they can’t go digging around in candy bowls, choose one piece and stick with it – or ask the host to drop some in your bag.
  • Have kids stay in their group or with the family – it’s hard not to want to run around and play but keeping a social distance this Halloween is important, even outside.
  • Don’t share toys, costume props, or candy bags or bowls. Keep the light sabers and wands to yourself. No trading your princess bag for someone’s light up necklace. Ask each child to hold onto their own things and candy bag.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use it to clean little hands between every few homes.
  • Give kids break with wearing their masks. Away from the porch/doorway and perhaps at a family huddle away from others – take a minute to breathe and regroup if needed.

Above all else, wear a mask. Since many costumes already have some sort of mask or disguise – it shouldn’t be hard to incorporate a face covering into your child’s costume. Parents, be a good role model and wear one too.

CDC notes that you should not use costume masks in place of cloth masks.

  • Do not use a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

If you’re giving out candy think ahead. Make small bags and give out little grab bags this year. This might be the year of the goodie bag. Or setting a candy bowl set outside for trick-or-treaters to self-serve might be the best solution if you or someone in your family is at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the holiday with a few new rules to keep everyone safe. For more general information on how to keep your children safe this Halloween visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.