Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

Updated October 2021

Trick-or-treating, parades, and costume parties are common activities of Halloween each October. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may affect some of those traditional holiday celebrations.

Read on to find out how to stay safe this Halloween.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Trick-or-Treating Safety During COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating a “high-risk” activity in 2020, along with other activities like indoor haunted houses and crowded indoor costume parties.

With many Americans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, including children 12 and older, the CDC did not list trick-or-treating as a high-risk activity in 2021. However, it is important to exercise caution against COVID-19, especially because children under 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.

If your children are participating in Halloween activities, take these steps to lessen the risk of COVID-19 spread:

  • Get vaccinated: People 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19, especially in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting vaccinated protects you and others, including children who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.
  • Wear facemasks: People over 2 years old who are not fully vaccinated should wear facemasks or other cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Facemasks are especially important in indoor settings.
    • Note: Costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of at least two layers of breathable fabric, covers both the nose and mouth, and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it may make it more difficult to breathe. Instead, consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth face covering.
  • Avoid large groups: Social distancing is a key COVID-19 preventive measure. If your kids are trick-or-treating, have them go in small groups, ideally with other members of your own household. Try to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a member of your household.
  • Remember hand hygiene: Carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol with you during trick-or-treating and use it frequently. Remind everyone not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Don’t linger at houses: Prolonged contact with people who are not members of your household raises the risk of COVID-19 spread. Do not linger after picking up treats.

If you are passing out treats at your home, consider leaving them where trick-or-treaters can pick them up on their own, such as the end of your driveway. You may consider  Wash your hands before and after handling treats. Wear a cloth face covering if you think you may have any contact with trick-or-treaters, and avoid lengthy interactions.

Are Other Halloween Activities Safe During COVID-19?

Along with trick-or-treating, Halloween often includes other activities like costume parades, haunted houses, and more.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips when considering whether to participate in Halloween celebrations:

  • Stay outside: Instead of an indoor haunted house, try an outdoor haunted maze. You also can visit an apple orchard or pumpkin patch, but bring some hand sanitizer with you.
  • Avoid large crowds: Try to keep your groups small. Participate in activities with members of your household or small groups of friends.

Just as with trick-or-treating, it’s important that people who are eligible for the COVID-19 get vaccinated. People who are not fully vaccinated should wear facemasks, especially indoors, and maintain physical distancing and hand hygiene.

Lowest-Risk Halloween Activities

Instead of trick-or-treating or other activities that carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, the CDC recommends other ways you can celebrate Halloween.

Low-risk activities include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household.
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside with others, at a safe social distance.
  • Decorating your home.
  • Holding outdoor Halloween scavenger hunts, where children can look for Halloween-themed items on decorated homes in your neighborhood, or indoor scavenger hunts in your own home with members of your household.
  • Virtual costume contests.
  • Halloween movie nights with members of your household.

Bottom line: You can still find a way to celebrate Halloween this fall. Just be careful and follow preventive methods, including vaccination, facemasks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.

For more information on COVID-19, visit upmc.com/covid19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Holiday Celebrations. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween

Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, Is It Safe to Trick-or-Treat During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Experts Share Halloween Health Safety Tips. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/a33826132/halloween-trick-or-treating-health-safety/

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.