The University Record, October 29, 2001

Halloween night: Make it safe, not scary for the kids

By Krista Hopson
Health System Public Relations

Taking to their neighborhood streets dressed in ghostly garb and other creative costumes, many

young trick-or-treaters are unaware that certain hazards may be lurking as they roam about in search of goodies. But parents can ensure this Halloween will be frightfully fun and not ghoulishly dangerous for their young ghosts and goblins just by taking a few simple Halloween precautions before sending their trick-or-treaters out.

“Halloween is about fun and you never want anything to happen that would interfere with the enjoyment of the holiday,” says Gary Freed, professor of pediatrics and communicable disease. “So, it’s important that parents create a safety check-list to allow this night to be fun for everyone.”

At the top of every Halloween safety check list should be adult or parental supervision of children, both during and after trick-or-treating.

It is especially important for parents to monitor their children as they cross and walk near streets while trick-or-treating.

To avoid harm, trick-or-treaters also should follow a planned route that includes crosswalks and sidewalks, and avoid any unknown homes and high-traffic areas to prevent accidents involving automobiles.

One simple step that will keep families visible to cars, as well as help them navigate, is carrying a flashlight at all times, says Freed.

Also, to increase trick-or-treaters’ visibility to motorists, all costumes should include some type of reflective material or tape. Bikes, skateboards, brooms and any other mode of Halloween transportation also need to be equipped with reflectors.

According to studies from the American Optometric Association, costumes with reflective material are visible to drivers even at speeds of 70–80 mph, while those wearing white are only visible to drivers traveling about 50 mph.

Is the costume flame-retardant? Flame-retardant material is an important feature for any while trick-or-treating, children may come into frequent contact with outdoor candles or pumpkins.

Does the costume fit properly? Long capes, robes, skirts and pants or even oversized and high-heeled shoes could cause a child to fall. Most importantly, Freed says, is to put a child in a costume that is comfortable and does not have any accessories, such as capes, that might become too tight around their neck.

Are there any sharp edges on the costume or its accessories? Sharp edges of a plastic pitchfork, wand or sword can come into contact with a child’s eye.

Does the mask obstruct a child’s vision or breathing? Masks are generally not recommended for any costume, especially for younger children. As a safe alternative to a mask, the American Red Cross recommends using hypoallergenic face paint.

“Whether they purchase or make a Halloween costume, parents need to discuss with their children how to best wear that particular costume and also make any modifications necessary to ensure the costume is safe for their child,” says Freed.

Before children pop that first piece of Halloween candy in their mouths, parents need to check for any signs of treat tampering. Any candy with small pinholes in the wrappers and torn or loose packages should be thrown away.

Also, parents with young children should sift through the treats and dispose of any goodies like gum, peanuts, candy corns, hard candy or little toys that could be a potential choking hazard.

“It’s very exciting for children to come home with a bag full of candy and stuff as much in their mouths as they can,” says Freed. “But parents need to maintain a vigilance over their children by letting them enjoy that candy once its been inspected, and also by remembering that too much of a good thing can spoil the evening. “