Keeping your kids safe on Halloween

Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for both children and adults! In order to prevent unanticipated illnesses and injuries, it’s important for parents and caregivers to be aware of some simple safety tips in order to keep their children safe during this Halloween holiday! 

Costumes

Finding and selecting the “perfect” costume can take time and perseverance! Although children may focus more on their appearance or popularity, it’s important parents check to make sure costumes and their accessories fit well and are made of safe materials.      

  • Check hats, wigs and beards to make sure they don’t slip over your children’s eyes or prevent them from breathing easily.  
  • If your children are wearing masks, make sure they fit securely, provide adequate ventilation and have eye holes large enough to maintain full visibility.
  • Decorative contact lenses can be harmful and should not be worn unless purchased by an FDA-approved vendor and fitted by a qualified eye care professional.      
  • Read all ingredient labels prior to purchasing face paint. In a 2016 study, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found toxic ingredients, such as lead and cadmium, in more than 20 percent of Halloween face paints tested. Additionally, before using on their faces, try dabbing a small amount of the paint on your children’s arms a few days before Halloween to check for allergic reactions.  
  • Choose bright-colored, temperature appropriate costumes that are easily seen at night. Adding reflective or glow-in-the-dark tape to the front and back of your children’s costumes (especially on their arms/legs/feet) and trick-or-treat bags will increase their visibility during dusk and darkness.  
  • To prevent burns, be sure your children’s costumes are flame-resistant or made of flame-resistant materials, such as nylon or polyester. Also, to reduce the risk of contact with candles and other flames, avoid costumes with wide, billowing sleeves, skirts and long capes.  
  • To prevent trips and falls, ensure your children’s costumes are well-fitting and not dragging on the ground. Also, dressing your children in sneakers or appropriately-fit, walking shoes can avoid accidental injuries, such as falls, cuts, scrapes and blisters.  
  • Make sure all costume props, such as swords, light sabers and wands are lightweight, short and flexible. Also, teach children to hold their props safely … and, avoid any rapid, swinging or flailing movements that could accidentally injure themselves or other children.
  • Place a nametag – with your name and phone number – on young children’s costumes and accessories. Be sure your older children and teens know (and can recite) your phone number prior to heading out for the night.  

Trick-or-treating

Trick-or-treating can be one of the best, yet most risky, part of Halloween! The enthusiasm and excitement for gathering and stock-piling as much candy as possible can oftentimes overshadow the importance of road safety and precaution. Unfortunately, pedestrian injuries, such as falls/trips, head injuries, scrapes/lacerations, fractures and car accidents, are the most common injuries to children on Halloween!

  • Children under 12 years should always be accompanied by an adult. Also, provide everyone with a flashlight and/or glow sticks to improve visibility for you, your children and drivers. 
  • Be sure to trick-or-treat in familiar, well-lit neighborhoods. Although Halloween is a great time for meeting up and socializing with adult friends, too, be sure to identify a couple of “designated” adults in charge of watching the children and ensuring their safety.      
  • Prior to leaving home, establish road rules and limitations with your children (and their friends).  Talk to them about safe road behavior, such as staying alert and undistracted by electronic devices, walking (not running) between houses, looking both ways before crossing the street, using traffic signals and crosswalks wherever possible, walking on sidewalks (or on the far edge of the road facing traffic), avoiding dark alleys and streets and watching for cars turning or backing up. 
  • Talk with older children and teenagers about their Halloween plans (names/numbers of the friends they’ll be with, party location and details, trick-or-treat routes) and confirm the details with other parents and caregivers. Also, ensure they have their fully-charged cell phone (with functioning family/locator apps), reiterate road safety tips and behavior, and confirm check-in points and curfew times.    

Candy

According to my children, the candy is the best part about Halloween! However, it’s important to check and limit the amount of candy children are eating!  

  • Children should not eat any treats before you or another adult has examined them.  
  • Be sure to throw away all treats that have ripped or unsealed packaging or are small enough to present a choking hazard to young children (particularly those under 3 years).
  • Establish a “candy plan” that limits the amount of candy that can be kept (versus given away to local, candy-collecting programs/drop-offs) and the number of pieces that can be eaten per day. Eating too much candy can cause dental cavities, stomach aches and pains, and unnecessary weight gain.    

Before heading out for a fun-filled, ghoulish night, review and discuss these safety tips with your children, friends and family! Hope you all have a safe and boo-rific Halloween!

Post by:

Katherine Jennifer Leaming-Van Zandt, MD

Dr. Katherine Leaming-Van Zandt is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at BCM and, an attending physician in the emergency centers of Texas Children's Hospital.  She also serves as the Medical Director of the TCH West Campus Emergency Center.  

Dr. Leaming-Van Zandt’s academic interests...

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