WASHINGTON, D.C.—Halloween can be a lot of fun, but it is also a busy night for many emergency physicians. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers suggestions to help make sure that Halloween scares don’t include a trip to the emergency department this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that going door-to-door this year can be a low-risk activity. But, the virus can still spread, especially among children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine and live in higher-risk households.
“Everyone can take steps to safely enjoy the spooky season, but we should remember the pandemic is not over yet,” said Gillian Schmitz, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Let’s prioritize the smart choices and behaviors that we know can help avoid spreading COVID-19.”
Emergency physicians suggest that everyone do their best to avoid large crowds, maintain social distance, and keep festivities outside when possible. Costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks, and they do not offer the same protection. Adults and children should avoid wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask as that can make breathing difficult.
Each Halloween, emergency physicians typically see an increase in injuries from car accidents, falls, and deep cuts from pumpkin carving accidents, among other emergencies. Emergency physicians offer these tips to avoid a Halloween horror story:
Be safe while trick-or-treating. Children should not walk alone in the dark. Try to go as a group, in a familiar neighborhood, with an adult chaperone. Bring flashlights and stay on sidewalks when walking at night.
Make safe costume choices. Use reflective tape on costumes to increase visibility at night and avoid costumes that are hard to walk in or could cause a child to trip and fall. Dress appropriately for the weather to avoid the risk of hypothermia and wear only non-flammable materials. Make sure costume accessories are made from flexible material and that any swords, wands or pointed objects have dulled edges.
Watch what you eat. Avoid candy that is not wrapped in its original wrapper. Don’t eat too much; children and adults can get sick from over-indulging on candy. Pay attention to the labels on candy or other sweets because edible marijuana or related products can resemble food that looks harmless. Be mindful about which candy contains common allergens, such as peanuts, and be prepared with allergy medication as necessary.
Exercise caution with decorations. Keep sharp knives and lit candles away from children. Older children and teens should still be supervised while using any sharp tools. Young children should not carve pumpkins. Instead, consider having them decorate pumpkins by drawing designs or helping remove the pulp and seeds.
“Halloween is meant to be a fun time with children, families and friends,” said Dr. Schmitz. “Nobody should have to spend their holiday in the emergency department. But if an emergency occurs, there will be an emergency physician ready to provide care to anyone who needs them.”
Visit www.emergencyphysicians.org for more health and safety information.