Keep 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, holiday risks can be avoided with the right precautions.

As a pediatrician, I encourage you to consider these tips to help keep your child and others safe this Halloween.

What kind of candy is best for young kids?

For the littlest ones, chewy treats are best, as hard candies may cause choking. It’s important for parents to monitor what younger children are popping in their mouths. Remind kids not to eat a piece of candy until it has been checked by an adult. Make sure your children brush their teeth thoroughly after eating candy.

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

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.

Also, while being sick is never fun, it can be especially disappointing if it means missing out on Halloween activities. However, it’s still important to follow precautions to prevent the spread of viruses, especially if your child has symptoms.

Is pumpkin carving dangerous?

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?

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.

In cold and rainy weather, kids should wear layers under their costume to stay warm and dry. If costumes include toy weapons, they should look like toys.

Are Halloween face paints safe?

There are safe options available. Always buy face paint/makeup that is labeled "non-toxic” or find recipes online to make your own face paint using common food items in your pantry.

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

All treats should be individually wrapped and avoid passing out homemade treats. Consider peanut-free treats, or better yet, give out non-edibles such as coloring books, markers, stickers, novelty toys or latex-free balls. These are safe, fun alternatives for children with food allergies and all kids.

While you trick-or-treat, you may notice colors other than orange on candy buckets or pumpkins. What do these mean?

Unique colors on a child’s candy bucket or on a pumpkin on a doorstep are a great way for families to notify those nearby of important health considerations.

Some of the colors you may come across – and their special meanings - include:

  • Teal: to signify a child has food allergies that treat givers should be aware of.
  • Purple: to indicate a child has epilepsy
  • Blue: to signify a child may be on the autism spectrum
  • Pink: to represent and raise awareness for breast cancer

These special colors are becoming more popular and are a great way to foster a safe and accepting environment for all trick-or-treaters.

What are the dangers of eating too many sweets?

Bingeing on Halloween candy may leave your child with an upset tummy. Of course, if eating too much candy or other sugary treats is something your child does often, it can lead to more serious health concerns such as obesity, poor nutrition and dental cavities.

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

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?

Motorists need to realize that kids are unpredictable on this chaotic night. 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?

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 there. Make paths and sidewalks less slippery by clearing off sticks, stones and wet leaves. Also, make sure your property is well-lit.

Allison Foster

Allison Foster, MD

Allison H. Foster, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and provides comprehensive pediatric care to children of all ages.

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