As we move full swing into the autumn season, it is the crisp night air and sound of crackling leaves beneath our feet that foreshadow one of fall’s most anticipated holidays for children…Halloween. Retail stores already have offered answers to the perennial question, “What are you going to be for Halloween this year?” by stocking costumes and decorations weeks and weeks ago.
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 41 million potential trick-or-treaters will pour into the neighborhoods this year. Halloween is also celebrated in the U.K, Ireland, Canada, Australia and even parts of Saudi Arabia. Americans will purchase about 600 million pounds of candy just for this one evening, with the top selling sweet being candy corn – 20 million pounds to be exact!
While Halloween should be a spirited and festive holiday, there are several things that parents can do to ensure that it is also a safe evening for all. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission all offer safety tips on how to make sure your children are protected while having fun. Here are a few highlights:
Before you go:
- Make sure your child’s costume is comfortable and easy to walk in. Avoid shoes that are too large or loose clothing that may cause tripping or contact with flames
- Face paint is preferred over masks. If wearing a mask, have your child remove it when walking between homes
- Reflective tape on costumes or bags can provide additional visibility
- Accessories like swords, knives and light sabers should be short, blunt, flexible and not real.
- Do not wear decorative contact lenses
- Bring a flashlight
- Clear your own home of potential obstacles and keep your home well-lit. Restrain pets as well
On the trail:
- Walk in small groups, with adults supervising young children
- Cross only at crosswalks and not in between parked cars or through yards or alleys. Also use sidewalks if possible. Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths in children occur more on Halloween than any other night of the year
- Instruct children to only visit homes that are well-lit and never enter any house with which they are not familiar
- Older children should have a designated route that is agreed upon by the parent and a specific time for return
- Avoid eating candy while trick-or-treating – both to reduce choking hazards and to ensure the candy is examined for tampering before consumption
- Parents should closely examine candy before it is eaten, looking for evidence of tampering and sorting candy for children with food allergies
- Homemade treats from strangers should be avoided in general
- Ration candy or consider having your child trade in their candy for non-food items, such as games or toys
- Make sure your children brush their teeth well!
Finally, nothing substitutes for good common sense and supervision. With this in mind, all children can have a safe and Happy Halloween!
Julie Yeh, M.D. is a pediatrician with the Charles Street Pediatrics practice at GBMC