How to Protect Yourself From COVID-19 on Halloween 2021

Young trick or treating girl holds bucket wearing a mask

RichLegg / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Halloween will take place for the second time during a global pandemic.
  • Experts are recommending children wear masks and social distance.
  • They are also suggesting limiting party sizes and indoor events.
  • The Delta variant is more transmissible, especially among children, and is causing more hospitalizations for kids than any other time in the pandemic.

It is our second pandemic Halloween. While our understanding of how to prevent contracting COVID-19 has changed since the goblins last flooded the streets for candy, much remains the same. We still worry about our children contracting the illness in close quarters with others. We still very much have and need our masks, and not just the spooky ones. Here is how to weigh the risks and fun when contemplating your plans for Halloween 2021 in a global pandemic.

Wear a Mask Under Your Mask

Your kids' plastic superhero or princess mask shouldn’t replace their medical mask. Instead, they should wear a medical mask underneath any Halloween mask, says Gina Posner, MD, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “I would definitely have kids wear a mask since they don’t know who they will be exposed to,” she says, referencing the close interaction with candy-givers at each house the kids visit.

Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. agrees. “Costume masks almost never provide enough protection," he says. To be safe, use your typical masking strategy, even though your children will most likely be outdoors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s masking data in schools have shown that schools without mask requirements were three and half times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks, continuing what we already know about the efficacy of masks in reducing transmission.

Daniel Ganjian, MD, Pediatrician

Costume masks almost never provide enough protection

— Daniel Ganjian, MD, Pediatrician

Keep Your Halloween Party Guest List Small, Or Cancel

You might need to consider canceling your Halloween bash this year or at least lowering the guest count. Dr. Posner says she would cancel parties altogether, at least for now. This is in large part because, as the CDC reports, hospitalization rates for children ages 17 and younger have been at an all-time high this fall. Hospitalizations peaked the week ending in September 11, but as of October 3, rates are still higher than they've been at any point prior to Fall 2021. Dr. Ganjian says if you do still plan on having a Halloween party, you should move it outdoors and keep it to a few close friends.

Social Distance While Passing Out Candy

For now, you probably should not let your kids take candy directly from a homeowner or let the homeowner place candy in your child's bag. Instead, both experts recommend leaving the candy outside the house to create distance between the kids and the homeowner. You can place candy on a table with a note to take one. Dr. Posner says these touchless candy options lower the risk of transmission. 

Another option is for both the trick-or-treater and the homeowner to both be wearing masks, though that is harder to control if you don’t know the neighbors you are visiting. Similar to pandemic pods, neighborhood circles can band together to create safe trick or treating requirements by asking everyone to mask or social distance. 

You can also explore more creative social distancing measures, like using a broomstick to pass out bags of candy.

Keep Your Kids Home If They Are Sick

It is upsetting to miss trick-or-treating for a runny nose or cough, but this year it might be the difference between infecting your entire neighborhood or not. “Keep your child home if they do not feel well or have any symptoms, such as cough, runny nose, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea,” Dr. Ganjian says. “The Delta variant is not more dangerous in children, but it is more contagious, so parents should try their best to encourage their children to keep with mask and social distancing guidelines.”

Daniel Ganjian, MD, Pediatrician

The Delta variant is not more dangerous in children, but it is more contagious.

— Daniel Ganjian, MD, Pediatrician

Adapt School Parties

Schools should be avoiding food at parties this year, no matter how tempting it may be to buy some spooky classroom cupcakes. “Costume events are great, but I wouldn’t do parties since that requires removing your mask to eat,” Dr. Posner says.

In addition, instead of having large gatherings, Dr. Ganjian says that larger parties can be separated into several mini gatherings. This can apply at school or at home. At school, this might look like having a classroom party rather than a grade-level party at your child’s school.

In the end, Halloween can still be a celebratory holiday for children. It is just important to observe appropriate safety measures. “The Delta variant is not more dangerous in children, but it is more contagious, so parents should try their best to encourage their children to keep with mask and social distancing guidelines,” Dr. Ganjian says.

What This Means For You

This Halloween, take steps to protect your family from the Delta variant of COVID-19. It is more transmissible than previous strands, including among children. You can protect your kids by social distancing, masking, minimizing gatherings (especially indoors), and using socially distanced trick or treating strategies to keep kids safer.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jehn M, McCullough JM, Dale AP, et al. Association between K–12 school mask policies and school-associated COVID-19 outbreaks — Maricopa and Pima Counties, Arizona, July–August 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70:1372-1373. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7039e1

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker.

By Alexandra Frost
Alexandra Frost is a freelance journalist and content marketing writer with a decade of experience, and a passion for health and wellness topics. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Glamour, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, Business Insider, and more.