Your Health

Think safe and don't be afraid of Halloween

Kids in Halloween costumes
Photo of Dr. Lynne Warda DR. LYNNE WARDA
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, October 30, 2015

In all the excitement of door-knocking for Halloween treats on Monday, it's easy for little ghosts and ghouls to inadvertently get into trouble.

There is plenty of opportunity for kids to hurt themselves while carving a pumpkin, crossing a dark street or when they're finally able to dig into their candy.

Here are important tips to keep your kids safe this Halloween.

For starters, take care when carving a pumpkin. When it comes to general pumpkin preparation, little kids shouldn't do much more than draw a design on the pumpkin or scoop out the seeds. Leave the carving to an adult. Also, never use candles in pumpkins or other decor inside your home. Instead, use battery-operated candles, which won't set fires if the pumpkin is knocked over.

Choose costume material wisely. If your child hasn't already settled on a costume, put together one that is more visible in the dark and doesn't limit your child's vision. Costumes shouldn't be so long or complicated they overwhelm your kid's ability to walk, and headpieces should have clear lines of sight.

Choose face paint over a mask for this reason. Look for costumes that are labelled "flame resistant," and if a sword, cane or stick is part of the costume, make sure it's not sharp or overly long.

With this year's Halloween falling on a Saturday, many drivers this year will be on their way to adult parties, so using reflective tape or flashing lights on costumes will help put drivers on the alert. Carrying a flashlight is another way to signal your presence to drivers.

Take care to travel as a group. Children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision. Use the sidewalks when possible, or walk on the side of the road, facing traffic. Go to houses that have lights on, and don't cut across yards.

Older kids should travel with a buddy or two. Never go alone; it's no fun, and it's not safe. If your older child is heading out without your supervision, plan a route in advance, and make sure you know where your child will be going. Remind them to only accept treats inside the doorway. They shouldn't go further into the house, or get into a stranger's car.

Also remind them if they see a friend across the street, don't run to meet them. Follow the rules of the road. Remember: just because one car stops, that doesn't mean other drivers will.

If you're nervous about traffic, consider community events. Many parents opt to attend them with younger children. Going trick-or-treating at a community club or mall gives you the Halloween experience, without the danger.

You might see something new this year - teal pumpkins. These are part of an effort to make Halloween safer for kids who may have allergies to ingredients commonly found in candy and chocolates, such as nuts, wheat or dairy.

A teal-coloured pumpkin - or a poster showing a teal pumpkin - is a signal the residents of the house are handing out non-candy treats, to allow kids with allergies to participate in the Halloween tradition and keep their loot.

If you wish to participate in the teal-pumpkin idea, paint a pumpkin or put up a poster. But as you select your non-candy goodies to hand out, keep these safety rules in mind:

  • Don't hand out small items that could be a choking hazard, such as tiny erasers or toys that come with button batteries.
  • Be aware some mouldable clays contain wheat, and some toys contain latex, both of which can trigger allergic reactions.

One final reminder: an adult should check through the loot bag when everyone returns home. Throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Have a spooky (and safe) Halloween!

Dr. Lynne Warda is Medical Director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Injury Prevention Program. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on October 30, 2015.

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