5 scary good tips for Halloween safety
BY DR. NKEIRU ORAJIAKA, ER PEDIATRICIAN
I don’t know about you but my kids start counting down to the next Halloween immediately after the last one. They can’t help themselves.
It’s a highly anticipated and exciting day for kids to dress up as their favorite superheroes, professionals, famous person or monster and step out to pursue a whole lot of candy.
As a parent, I enjoy helping my kids pick costumes, dress up, then walk door to door to trick or treat while I have a chance to chat with neighbors I haven't seen recently.
But while Halloween is fun for all, it can also be scary for parents and perilous for kids. Take a few simple precautions and make it a night to remember in all the right ways.
Here are a few ways to keep your kids safe for the holiday.
1. choose bright colored costumes
Most kids will focus on choosing costumes based on who they want to be and that’s ok. As parents, we need to help them plan and choose their costumes appropriately. In most cases, trick or treat may go on ‘til dark and you want to maximize your child’s visibility. You want everyone to be able to see your child easily, including drivers. Choose bright colored costumes. If your child chooses a darker costume, consider using glow-in-the-dark necklaces, reflective tapes, or stickers that help them stand out and, even better, glow. Glow sticks and flashlights make great additions.
Appropriate costume fit and length is also important to prevent trips and falls. A few years ago, I evaluated a child who sustained mouth injuries after she tripped on her long princess dress and fell face first to the ground. Take children to scout and fit costumes while in-store. If buying online, start early. Consider buying multiple sizes so you can try them on and decide which fits best. Avoid rush shopping as this can lead to dangerous compromises.
Face coverings and costume masks may make costumes complete but for kids, they may also obscure their vision. Choose face painting and non-toxic makeup instead, as they are less likely to obstruct the child’s view.
Also, critical: Look at labels to ensure costumes are flame resistant.
2. the do’s and don’ts of trick-or-treat
It’s easy to get distracted or lose sight of kiddos when there’s a crowd, multiple little ones, or while catching up with neighbors.
Make a detailed plan before leaving home. It’s best to trick-or-treat as a group with family or friends. Be sure you have enough grown-ups to help watch over and care for little ones. Avoid distractions when moving around with children, keep your phones down, and focus on guiding and having fun with them.
Decide on homes or areas to visit before you leave home. Sticking close to home is great because you’ll know many of the people and will not get lost in neighborhoods.
Visit homes that are well lit and tell your children not to enter anyone’s home. Stay as close to the porch with them as possible and always keep them within your sight.
If you are caring for multiple kids, remember that kids will be in a hurry to move on to the next exciting home, so always have them wait for each other and stick together as a group.
3. walk the walk and talk the talk
Roads are often more congested on Halloween, so taking extra care when walking the neighborhood is essential. If your little ones are old enough to understand, talk to them about not running into the streets or crossing them alone. Cross with them at street corners, using traffic signals and cross walks. When getting close to roads, slow them down and hold younger ones. Kids can act unpredictably and tend to run wildly when they see the next interesting thing. That’s a recipe for an accident.
Encourage kids to walk on dedicated walk paths. Some lawns have decorations that kids may trip and fall on or that may be too scary for them. If no sidewalks are available, walk at the far edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Hold on the little kids while walking. Always.
4. focus on treats the kids can eat
The best part of trick-or-treat for every kid, including mine, is diving into the candy. Unfortunately, not every candy is safe or healthy. Get a good look at their stash before they dive in. Little children should not have hard candies, sticky candies, popcorn, gum, whole nuts, or other small pieces. These are a choking risk. You want to sort these out before they choose which to eat.
If your kids are old enough to understand your instructions, have conversations with them before you leave home. Tell them not to eat any treats they receive until you check the candy. For those too young to understand, help them hold their baskets and consider moving candy into a separate bag once they receive it.
When they get home from trick-or-treating, dump all the candy out and help them remove anything that’s unwrapped, is a choking risk, or anything with suspicious contents. Some adult candies may mimic treats for children, so look at unfamiliar candy closely to ensure contents are safe.
To help your kids not eat candy while they walk, feed them before you leave and then bring along some of your own candy from home. This way they have something safe to munch on while they trick-or-treat.
Help them decide how many treats are enough for one day, and store leftovers for later.
5. have kids paint and decorate pumpkins
Halloween isn’t complete without pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. Carving pumpkins is a great way to keep your kids active and entertained.
A safe experience starts with choosing the right pumpkin for them. A smooth pumpkin will be easier for them to draw on and decorate. Avoid pumpkins that are too heavy for their size. Pick a pumpkin with a flat surface that can balance properly when placed on the surface for carving.
Never let children carve the pumpkins; younger children are at high risk of hand injuries. You carve; let them draw, paint; and decorate the pumpkin.
When done, they can place a glow stick or flashlight inside the pumpkin. Avoid using real candles with kids, as this increases the risk of burns.
No kid wants to miss out on the Halloween fun and we can make this fun and memorable for them by keeping them safe. So, have a healthy and safe Halloween celebration with your family
about Dr. Orajiaka
Dr. Nkeiru Orajiaka is a board-certified pediatrician, child health and safety expert, wife, and mom. As a strong believer that health education is the basis for maintaining healthy living, her blog features tips and truths in medicine and parenthood to help you along the parenting journey. Check out drnkeiru.com and follow her on Instagram at @dr_norajiaka.