The University Record, October 30, 2000

Tips for parents of goblins and ghosts

By Valerie Gliem
Health System Public Relations

Halloween means miniature vampires, goblins, superheroes and hippies scavenging neighborhoods for treats and becoming the creatures that go bump in the night.

The goal: To reach as many houses and gather as much candy as possible within the trick-or-treating time limit.

The strategy: Whatever it takes—including running through neighbors’ yards and across dimly-lit streets with nary a glance to check for potholes or ditches, let alone passing vehicles.

The consequence: Parents must take special care to review with children the hazards the holiday can present.

Marie Lozon, director of pediatric emergency medicine and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics, sees the results of too much Halloween fun and unfortunate tragedies. “The emergency department can be very busy on Halloween. We see everything from minor injuries, like bumps and bruises, to more serious cases such as car-pedestrian accidents.”

The first thing many people think of when they hear “Halloween hazards” is contaminants in the candy. “You probably don’t need to worry as much about poisonings or sharp objects because most treats are commercially prepared these days. Really, the bigger danger is choking,” Lozon says. Parents should sort through the treats to see if they’re appropriate, or if they are a choking hazard. And, of course, eating too much candy could cause stomach cramping and diarrhea.

Children can be excited on Halloween, so parents should emphasize the importance of looking both ways before crossing a street. Trick-or-treating is usually held at dusk, “a very difficult time for drivers to adjust their vision,” she says. A child who breaks away from parents or darts out between two parked cars could run the risk of being hit by a passing motorist—resulting in a serious head injury, orthopedic trauma, abdominal injury, or even death. Keep in mind that Oct. 29 is the start of daylight savings time when darkness will descend earlier in the day.

On Halloween night, Lozon also sees children suffering from radial head subluxation, or nursemaid’s elbow. “That’s where a child stumbles and the parent tries to pull them up and actually pulls on their arm, dislocating that bone out of its ligament,” Lozon says. “It will be very painful and usually requires a trip to the emergency department to have the bone relocated.”

Halloween occurs at the time of year when shifts in temperature can be problematic for children with asthma. All parents should layer warm clothing underneath children’s costumes to ensure they are warm enough.

Costumes should permit children to see and walk easily. If the costume is dark in color, reflective tape should be added, too, so motorists can see the children.

Put simply, Lozon suggests the following: “Remember the plain old common-sense advice your mother or grandmother offered: Supervision, no running into the street, good lighting and keep your home’s walkway unobstructed.”

For the complete article on Halloween safety, visit the Web at www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/haldang.htm.