BY SMH TRAUMA COORDINATOR LEEANN PUTNEY
Halloween is a magical time for children, with many fun activities such as classroom parties, haunted houses, fall festivals and trick-or-treating. But for parents, there is often a fine line between Halloween fun and safety worries, especially on Halloween night, when the streets and sidewalks are filled with trick-or-treaters. Did you know that children are twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year?!
Here are some tips to help ensure that your family enjoys this magical holiday safely. Be sure to share them with your trick-or-treaters too!
Costume Safety Tips
Dark costumes make it hard for drivers and others to see trick-or-treaters at night. Choose a costume that is bright and reflective. Add reflective tape or striping to costumes and treat bags for added visibility. Have kids wear glow sticks on a lanyard or glowing necklaces or bracelets, or have them carry flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
2. Masks can reduce a child’s ability to see cars. Be sure that any costume masks do not impact your child’s vision, or use non-toxic makeup and a properly fitted hat instead; these can be a safe mask alternative.
3. Shoes should fit well, and costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping or entanglement.
4. Look for costumes and accessories that are flame resistant in case they come in contact with a jack-o-lantern or luminaries.
5. If a sword or stick is part of your child’s costume, make sure that it is not sharp, as a child can be hurt by it if he trips.
Trick-or-treating Safety Tips
A parent or responsible adult should always accompany children younger than age of 12 when trick-or-treating. Only stop by homes with a porch light on.
2. If older children are going out alone, review expectations such as never entering a home or car for a treat and what time they should return home. They should stick to familiar areas that are well lit, trick-or-treat in groups, and carry a cell phone for quick communication, if necessary.
3. Since pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind trick-or-treaters to remain on well-lit streets, always use the sidewalks, and cross streets at corners using traffic signals and crosswalks. Be alert to cars that are turning or backing up.
4. While tampering is rare, an adult should check all treats before the kids dig in, and throw away any that are unwrapped, spoiled or suspicious.
5. Keep candy and wrappers away from pets. Chocolate can be deadly to animals, and they can choke on hard candies and wrappers. Store candy well out of your pet’s reach.
If you are driving on Halloween, be especially alert in residential areas. Children are excited on Halloween—and likely fueled by sugar—and they may move in unpredictable ways. Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic, and turn your vehicle’s headlights on early to help spot children from greater distances. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 to 9:30 pm, so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
Halloween Decorating Safety
Young children should never carve pumpkins. Encourage them to draw a face on the pumpkin with non-toxic markers, and then parents can do the carving. Consider using a flashlight, glow stick, or flameless candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest. Place candlelit pumpkins on a sturdy table away from any flammable objects and paths where visitors might pass close by; never leave it unattended.
2. Remove any trip hazards such as garden hoses, toys, and bikes from your porch and front lawn. Make sure that your home and lawn are well lit; replace any burned-out bulbs.
3. Restrain pets or put them in a secure area so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
Try a Healthier Halloween
1. Enjoying a healthy meal before heading out for trick-or-treating will help keep kids from filling up on too many Halloween treats.
2. Rather than candy, consider distributing non-food treats such as stickers, pencils or small toys to those who visit your home.
3. Encourage kids to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween, and donate any extra, unwanted treats to a candy collection program such as the Soldier’s Angels Treats for Troops program.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween!
SMH Trauma Program Coordinator Leeann Putney has been a registered nurse with the hospital for nearly 30 years. Prior to joining the trauma team in 2015, she served as a critical care nurse, nurse educator, and nursing Magnet Program co-lead. She received her Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of South Florida, and lives in Sarasota with her husband and two active, teenage sons.