Follow these simple safety tips to have a fun and healthy Halloween!
By Alicia A. Briggs, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist, Connecticut Children’s and Nuvance Health
Halloween is one of the most celebrated traditions of the year, especially for children. October 31 means children get to dress up in costumes, have fun parading around the neighborhood collecting candy, and admire all the jack-o-lanterns and spooky decorations.
Halloween is intended to be fun and enjoyable for everyone. To ensure the evening doesn’t become too scary, here are tips on how you can keep your little ghouls and goblins’ Halloween experience safe, healthy and memorable.
Halloween costume safety
Some traditional popular children’s costumes such as witches and vampires are timeless and appeal to a lot of young children. But these costumes also tend to use dark-colored fabrics and can pose a safety risk because they are more difficult for drivers to see at night.
Here are tips you can use to make sure your child’s Halloween costume is safe to wear.
- Add visibility to costumes to help drivers better see your trick-or-treater, especially after dark. Adding reflective tape, or glow sticks to Halloween costumes can help increase the visibility of darker-colored or hard-to-see costumes. In addition to reflective tape and glow sticks, adding LED lights to costumes or simply carrying a flashlight will help your trick-or-treaters see better and be seen by drivers.
- Make sure costumes fit well. One overlooked problem with children’s Halloween costumes is size. Make sure your child’s costume is the proper size to ensure they have a pleasant and safe trick-or-treat or trunk-or-treating experience. Try on costumes before leaving the house, and make sure they are not baggy or loose. Ensure that masks or accessories do not block your child’s eyes or nose.
- Use (safe) makeup over masks. Sometimes makeup is a better option than a mask. However, according to Consumer Reports, some makeup and face paints marketed for children are toxic and contain heavy metals that can be absorbed into your skin. Avoid powdered makeups that contain talc. Talc is a filler item inside many makeups. Unfortunately talc is often mined in nature within close proximity to asbestos. In 2020, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group sent talc-based makeup to be tested for asbestos and found the carcinogen in two eyeshadow palettes and one toy makeup kit for kids. The FDA had previously found asbestos in two brands of powdered makeup marketed towards kids. Instead, try making your own makeup at home. Mixing cherry juice with cornstarch and sugar can give the appearance of blood. Carrot juice mixed with cornstarch and facial moisturizer can make an orange-colored natural paint.
Trick-or-treating is the highlight for most kids as they get to dress up in their favorite costumes and walk around the neighborhood collecting candy. Here are some ways to keep spooky situations from happening while enjoying trick-or-treating with your little ones.
- Practice pedestrian safety by walking only on sidewalks and using crosswalks. Walk in well-lit areas and encourage children to observe and obey traffic laws. Remind your children about road safety, including looking both ways before crossing the street and waiting for traffic signals. Avoid walking on roads but if you have no other choice then walk against traffic so you and your child are visible to oncoming drivers.
- Stay in groups. Don’t trick-or-treat alone. Young children should be supervised by a parent or trusted adult. Older children should go out in groups and have a curfew for when they will return home. To make it easy while traveling in a large group of trick-or-treaters, use the buddy system to ensure accountability and awareness of the group.
- Use a flashlight or cellphone to help you see in the dark. Not only will it help drivers better see children, but it will also help children see curbs, sidewalks and sticks or other tripping hazards.
- Check for ticks and other insects and pests. Although the weather is cooling down, tick checks following trick-or-treating are a good idea, especially if your child walked through leaves, brush or tall grass. It is possible ticks are still active in the area ahead of any major frost.
- Stay in areas you know. Remind children never to go inside a stranger’s house or business and to only trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods and at homes with lights on.
- Trunk-or-Treat instead. Many local businesses and faith-based community centers host trunk-or-treat events. Alternatively, parents who do not want to take their children trick-or-treating around the neighborhood could instead take their children to a trunk-or-treat event.
There are few holiday traditions sweeter than trick-or-treating. It’s no surprise that Halloween is such a big hit with kids partly because they get to dress up in costumes while collecting free candy. Here are some tips on how parents and guardians can keep their children safe and healthy once trick-or-treat candy has been collected and returned home.
- Establish a plan for eating candy. Manage your child’s expectations by agreeing on how much candy they can eat before collecting it. Controlling the amount of candy your children consume ensures they are not eating too many sweets, which can lead toand other potentially hazardous health risks. Limit candy.
The American Heart Association recommends children ages 2 to 18 should have less than 25 grams of sugar a day. Ten candy corns have about 16 grams of sugar and one Reese’s peanut butter cup is 110 calories. Candy leftovers can be frozen and added to ice cream sundaes, milkshakes and brownies throughout the year. Chocolate bars can be melted down and used in holiday baking months later. Alternatively, you can donate candy to a good cause, such as Treats for Troops.
- Read the nutrition labels and ingredients on candy. Candy is highly processed and usually contains lots of added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors. Additives such as high fructose corn syrup have been linked to increased appetites which can promote obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States. That's 1 in 13 children who have a food allergy in the U.S. If your child suffers from food allergies, carry an epinephrine auto injector while trick-or-treating.
Always read candy labels if your child has allergies. Halloween can be extra scary for children who suffer from food allergies so keep an eye out for teal-colored pumpkins on the doorstep of homes that your child is trick-or-treating at. Many people participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project which raises food allergy awareness by offering the option of non-food trinkets and toys in a separate bowl.
- Inspect all your children’s candy before they eat any of it. Carefully check candy that has ripped or opened packaging or looks as if it was tampered with. Remove and discard any candy that looks like it has been opened. Only candy received in its original packaging should be eaten.
Feel the outside of the candy’s packaging for any unusual foreign objects. Read the expiration date of all candy. Toss any homemade or unwrapped items that do not come with a nutritional label because you do not know what they are made from.
The bottom line is, if you are unsure about a piece of candy then throw it away immediately. Watch out for choking risks for candies that may come with small toys. Be aware that hard candy is not typically recommended for smaller children because they do pose a choking hazard.
- Practice brushing more frequently. Encourage your children to brush their teeth and floss more often, especially after eating Halloween candy that contains sugar. Kids should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to avoid developing a cavity. You should help your child brush their teeth until they have good enough brushing skills.
The bottom line: Halloween only comes once a year which means there is plenty of time to prepare and practice safety so you and your child can have a happy experience. Remember to check your children’s costumes before they head out the door to trick-or-treat. See that their costume fits well, does not droop or drag and is easily visible. Remember to never trick-or-treat alone and to best stick to trick-or-treating in large groups while using the buddy system. Always inspect your child’s candy and remember if you are not sure about a certain item, toss it out in the trash. But above all, have a happy and safe Halloween!