Keep your kids safe at Halloween

Halloween trick or treating

Parents and other adults play a key role in making the Halloween season fun and safe for children. Whether it’s crossing streets for trick-or-treating or using sharp tools to carve pumpkins, risks that come with the holiday can be avoided with the right precautions.

Here are some tips from child safety experts at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital for keeping your child safe at Halloween.

What are some basic safety rules for trick-or-treating?

Poj Lysouvakon, MD: Kids under 12 years old should always be accompanied by an adult. For teens, parents should plan and review approved routes and determine a set time for returning home. Regardless of age, kids should never go inside a house to pick up candy. Be sure kids know their own address and a parent’s cell phone number.

Is pumpkin carving dangerous?

Lysouvakon: Never let a child use a knife to carve pumpkins. The tools that come in a pumpkin-carving kit may be safer than using kitchen knives. Consider using electric candles/lights to illuminate your pumpkin instead of candles.

How can costumes be made safer and more visible?

Lysouvakon: Decorate costumes and trick-or-treat bags with reflective tape/stickers, and accessorize with glow sticks and flashlights. Lighter colors make it easier to see your child. Check labels to make sure costumes and wigs are fire-resistant. Costumes should fit properly to prevent tripping.

Alison Tothy, MD: In cold and rainy weather, kids should wear layers under their costume to stay warm and dry. Also, if costumes include toy weapons, they should look like toys and not the real thing.

Are Halloween face paints safe?

Lysouvakon: Always buy face paint/makeup that is labeled "non-toxic” or find recipes online to make your own face paint using food items commonly found in your pantry.

How can people handing out treats make them safer for kids?

Lysouvakon: All treats should be individually wrapped. Consider peanut-free treats, or better yet, give out non-food items such as coloring books, markers, stickers, novelty toys or latex-free balls. These will provide a safe, fun alternative for children with food allergies and all kids.

What kind of candy is best for young kids?

Tothy: For the littlest ones, chewy treats are best, as hard candies may cause them to choke. It’s important for parents to monitor what their younger children are popping in their mouths.

What are the dangers of eating too many sweets?

Lysouvakon: Besides an upset tummy, eating too much candy in general can lead to obesity, bad eating habits and dental cavities. Remember to tell kids not to eat a piece of candy until it has been checked by an adult.

What are some walking safety tips for trick-or-treaters?

Lysouvakon: Always use sidewalks and crosswalks, and obey traffic lights. Only cross the street at corners and look both ways.

How can motorists avoid hitting a trick-or-treater?

Tothy: Motorists need to realize that on this chaotic night, kids are unpredictable. It’s best to avoid driving on Halloween night. If you have to venture out, be careful when leaving and entering driveways. Drive slowly on residential and side streets where kids may dart out between cars.

How can we create safer paths for trick-or-treaters?

Tothy: Try to avoid making kids go up and down stairs to the front door. At my home, I stake out a space on the driveway and hand out candy from there. Make paths and sidewalks less slippery by clearing off sticks, stones and wet leaves. Also, make sure your property is well lit.

Poj Lysouvakon, MD

Poj Lysouvakon, MD

Poj Lysouvakon, MD, FAAP, is director of Safe Kids South Chicagoland, and pediatric director of the Mother-Baby Unit at Comer Children’s.

Learn more about Dr. Lysouvakon
Alison Tothy, MD

Alison Tothy, MD

Alison Tothy, MD, is associate professor of pediatrics in the pediatric emergency medicine department at Comer Children’s.

Learn more about Dr. Tothy