It is estimated that more than 41 million children will trick-or-treat nationwide this Halloween. The nation’s emergency physicians offer a few tips to make sure that your child stays safe and that any fright is the fun kind - that doesn’t include a health scare or trip to the emergency department.
“Emergency departments do typically see an uptick in visits on Halloween,” said Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Some of the most common injuries are motor vehicle accidents, falls, or hand lacerations from pumpkin carving mishaps. Taking the appropriate precautions will help you make sure that your child gets treats from friends and neighbors, not treatment in the emergency department.”
- Children should not walk alone in the dark. Try to go as a group, in a familiar neighborhood, with at least one adult chaperone. Seek organized festivities (schools, churches, etc) if possible.
- Bring flashlights. Visibility is important even at dusk, and it's especially important to remain visible to cars.
- Stay on the sidewalks when walking at night. If you must cross the street, obey all traffic signals.
- Discuss how to interact with strangers. Make sure your child knows to never accept rides from people they don’t know.
- Avoid candy that is not wrapped in its original wrapper.
- Don’t eat too much. Children (and adults) can get sick from over-eating candy.
- Pay attention to labels. Edible marijuana and related products are becoming more common and can resemble food that looks harmless. You don’t want to accidentally ingest, or let a child ingest, something with a harmful substance in it that could easily be mistaken for a common cookie or brownie.
- Know which candy contains common allergens, such as peanuts. Be prepared with allergy medication, if necessary.
- Make sure costumes are visible at night. Use reflective tape. Avoid costumes that are hard to walk in or could cause a child to trip (baggy pants, oversized shoes, etc).
- Avoid costumes that obstruct the child’s sight or vision.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. It could be cold or damp and you’ll want to avoid slipping and falling, or putting a child at risk for hypothermia.
- Avoid masks if possible. If your child must wear one, make sure it is well-ventilated.
- Make sure costume fabric, wigs and beards are made of flame-resistant materials.
- If a costume has an accessory, make sure it is made from flexible material and that any knives, swords, wands or pointed objects have dulled edges.
- Use hypo-allergenic makeup and remember to remove it before bed.
- Keep Jack-O-Lanterns with lit candles away from children and at a safe distance from the doorway in order to avoid burns or fires.
- Adults who carve pumpkins should exercise caution. Supervise older children and teens using any sharp tools. Young children should not carve pumpkins. One way they can help is by drawing the designs or removing the pumpkin pulp and seeds.
- Consider purchasing a pumpkin decorating kit. The designs could eliminate the need for freehanded carving and the included tools may be safer than typical kitchen knives.