It seems like Mother Nature hit the autumn switch last week. We went abruptly from summer to fall in a very short time. Grown-up minds turn to raking leaves, driving to work in the dark, and the inevitable, interminable rain that is coming. Talk to any kid, however, and all they can think of is pumpkins and costumes and candy … oh my.
Halloween can be a blast, but it is also a risky endeavor. Young goblins and witches running around in the dark, in costume, taking candy from neighbors and strangers; how can we ensure everyone makes it back safe and sound?
Many of our recommendations for protecting kids around Halloween are total common sense, but it is always a good idea to remind ourselves of the potential hazards to ensure that every princess, ninja and pirate gets home safely.
- Don’t let kids go out alone. Trick-or-treat with an adult or with a group of trusted kids. Be sure to set rules and boundaries for older kids, as well as a curfew.
- Be sure they have a flashlight.
- Try not to run from house to house.
- Be sure to look both ways before crossing streets, and use crosswalks instead of crossing in the middle of a block.
- Teach kids to call 911 for emergencies and consider sending them out with a cell phone just to be safe.
- Bright colors, high contrasts and reflective aspects help trick-or-treaters be seen in the dark. Try to add some of these elements to every costume. At least add some reflective tape to candy bags.
- Masks can impair what your kids can see. Consider makeup or hats in lieu of masks. If they do wear masks, be sure they remove them between houses so they can see properly.
- Be sure that shoes fit well, and that capes, dresses and pants are not a tripping hazard.
- Swords, sticks and knives can be dangerous. Be sure they’re not too sharp or too long. Flexible swords, etc., are always safer than hard, pointy ones.
- Tampering with treats is rare, but it is always a good idea to check out your child’s goody bag and throw away any unwrapped or suspicious items.
- Carving pumpkins is fun. But knives and young kids do not go together. Let younger ones draw or paint their jack ’o lanterns.
- A flashlight or glow stick can lend an eerie air to any pumpkin. If you choose to use a flame, use a small votive candle, and be sure the surroundings are not flammable.
- Be sure your yard is safe for trick-or-treaters. Remove items that kids could trip over, like sprinklers, hoses and the like.
- Be sure to have outdoor lighting, and replace bulbs that have burned out.
- Be sure that pets are appropriately restrained to avoid injuring trick-or-treaters.
Halloween can be a blast if you and your ghouls are prepared and follow the rules. Here’s to a safe and fun night!
Ben Hoffman, M.D.
Medical Director, OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital