Posted on October 27, 2016
Are you old enough to remember heading to the local hospital after a full night of trick-or-treating? Back in the 1970s and early 1980s—due to the fear of tampering—hundreds of hospitals around the country offered to X-ray candy free of charge. But, was that fear based on a myth? For the most part, yes.
Despite very few incidents over the past several decades—with most revealed to be unverifiable or unfounded—no child has ever been seriously injured by altered candy or other treats collected on Halloween.
While Halloween offers plenty of make-believe fun, it also brings real safety risks, as children dart across dark streets with their minds more on candy than on cars. Little ones are twice more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on other nights of the year.
Burns and cuts are also common. And then there’s the candy: Almost two-thirds of parents think their kids eat too much of it around Halloween.
The holiday can be safely enjoyed, especially when parents put extra care into planning and supervision. Talk with your children every year about safety concerns unique to this holiday, and review do’s and don’ts before heading out to trick or treat.
Follow these tips to keep your family safe this spooky season.
All Dressed Up
- Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame.
- Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
- Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.
- When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
- If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
- Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
- Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost.
Carving a Niche
- Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers, but parents should do the cutting.
- Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
- Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.
Home, Safe Home
- To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
- Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
- Wet leaves or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
- Restrain pets so they don’t inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
On the Trick-or-Treat Trail
- A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
- If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
- Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
- Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind trick-or-treaters:
- Stay in a group and communicate where they’ll be going
- Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
- Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
- Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
- If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
- Never cut across yards or use alleys.
- Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
- Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
- Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
- A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
- Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
- Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.
- Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween.
What about Our Furry Friends?
- All forms of chocolate, especially baking or dark chocolate, can be dangerous—even lethal—for dogs and cats. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts can cause a drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures.
- Don’t leave pets in the yard on Halloween. Surprisingly, vicious pranksters have been known to tease, injure, steal, and even kill pets on Halloween night.
- Keep pets confined and away from the door. Not only will your door be constantly opening and closing on Halloween, but strangers will be dressed in unusual costumes and yelling loudly for their candy. This can scary for our furry friends. Putting your dog or cat in a secure room away from the front door will also prevent them from darting outside into the night.
- Keep your outdoor cats inside several days before, and after, Halloween. Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. In fact, many shelters do not adopt out black cats during the month of October as a safety precaution.
- Keep Halloween plants such as pumpkins and corn out of reach. Although they are relatively nontoxic, such plants can induce gastrointestinal upset should your pets ingest them in large quantities.
- If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having the proper identification will increase the chances that they will be returned. Just make sure the information is up-to-date, even if your pet does have one of those fancy-schmancy embedded microchips.
- Don’t dress your pet in a costume unless you know they’ll love it. If you do decide that your pet needs a costume, make sure it isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe or bark and meow.
Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) offers primary and specialty care services with offices located in New Bern and Morehead City. We also operate the CCHC Urgent Care located in New Bern, off McCarthy Boulevard. CCHC is physician owned and operated and always welcomes new patients. If you would like more information, or would like to join the CCHC family, call our Patient Information Line today at (252) 633-4111 or visit www.cchchealthcare.com.
(Sources: Safe Kids Worldwide; American Academy of Pediatrics; Mayo Clinic; PetMD; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Halloween Safety Guide; and David Emery.)