Halloween Safety Tips
by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer A. Gardner, MD
We want our little ghouls, ghosts, and goblins to have fun, but we also recognize that even simple pleasures like pumpkin carving and dressing up while roaming door-to-door pose some risk. These practical tips make it easy to plan ahead for safety to ensure the fun goes from here to November!
Dressing for Fun and Safety
- Wigs, masks, large hats, and costumes that cover the face can impair vision. Avoid masks and opt for painting the face instead (look for nontoxic face paints).
- Light-colored clothing has the best visibility, especially at night, but isn’t always practical. In this case, use strips of reflective tape (front and back) to increase visibility.
- For extra visibility at night, have your child carry a flashlight or glow sticks (have extra) or wear a glow-in-the-dark necklace.
- Consider using a brightly colored goodie bag. You can also put reflective tape here, but don’t make this the only thing that is visible as it could be lost.
- Costumes that are baggy or too long can pose a tripping hazard. So do large shoes and high heels.
- Any props kids carry, such as magical wands and fantastic swords, should be flexible and blunt. Remember, tripping is not uncommon when kids are hurrying along on sidewalks, so avoid anything that could cause an eye injury.
- Look for flame retardant costumes. Jack-o-lanterns with candles inside can be an unintentional fire hazard.
- Be sure your child has a costume that is an appropriate weight. Nothing ruins trick-or-treating fun like being too hot or cold.
- For younger children, label the inside of the costume with your phone number.
Rules of the Road
- If your child will be trick or treating without you (generally safe around age 10), plan the route out in advance and set well-recognized limits surrounding busy roads or isolated stretches.
- Provide clear guidelines on what time your child should return home.
- Have your child carry a cell phone and be sure your child can call 911 for an emergency.
- All kids should know their phone number in case of separation.
- Only trick-or-treat on streets with sidewalks, and avoid busy roads altogether.
- If possible, only trick-or-treat at homes in your own neighborhood.
- Teach kids to cross the street only at crosswalks and to never assume that vehicles will stop at intersections or stop signs.
- Teach kids not to enter a home to collect a treat.
- Have children trick-or-treat (and stay) in groups. Remember, safety in numbers.
- Kids (as always) should not talk to strangers, especially masked individuals.
- If trick-or-treating at night, only trick-or-treat on well lit streets and only approach well lit homes.
- Be sure your child will not be returning home alone. If this is the case, arrange to pick up at a friends.
- Teach kids to throw away any candy that looks tampered with (unwrapped or opened, small holes, or a seal that looks glued).
- Protect little ones from choking hazards like gum, hard candy, and popcorn. Do not allow children to walk with lollipops in their mouths. (As a pediatric ER doc, I have seen the dangers first hand.)
Never allow children to handle a sharp knife. Even kids experienced with using knives will find it difficult to cut through pumpkins, and may exert too much pressure, resulting in injury.
- Instead, have them draw the shapes on the pumpkin and let a responsible adult do the carving.
- If kids want to be more involved, allow them to remove the seeds and guts with a large spoon.
- Once carved, use flameless (battery operated) candles for safer illumination.
- You can also have them paint the pumpkins instead of carving them.
And Remember, Keep Kids Safe as They Approach Your Own Home!
- To avoid trips and slips, remove rakes, hoses, children’s toys, bikes, or anything that might occlude the walkway.
- Remove any wet, slippery leaves.
- Make sure your house is well lit.
- Keep pets way from trick-or-treaters (upstairs or in the back of the house). Even if pets are dressed for Halloween fun, many children may be scared or allergic. Remember, a costume could also frighten a normally friendly pet.
- And of course, pets around candy is a bad idea. Chocolate can be fatal for doggies, so keep candy out of reach!
Dr. Gardner is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.
Want to read more blogs by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer A. Gardner, MD? Here’s her recent blog about making sure your kids eat healthy meals at school.