From the candy to the costumes, Halloween is a fun-filled time for kids and parents alike. But it can pose dangers to young revelers.
To help make this year's festivity a trick-free treat, follow these simple safety tips:
Adorning Your Little Ghouls
Choose a light-colored costume because these are easily seen at night. Add reflective tape or glow-in-the-dark tape to the front and back of the costume and to the trick-or-treat bag.
Only buy a costume that is labeled "flame-retardant." This means the material won't burn. If you are making your own costume, use nylon or polyester materials, which are flame-retardant.
Make sure wigs and beards don't cover your kids' eyes, noses, or mouths.
Kids shouldn't wear masks — they can make it difficult for them to see and breathe. Instead, use nontoxic face paint or makeup. Have younger kids draw pictures of what they want to look like. Older kids will have fun putting the makeup on themselves. Test the face paint or makeup on your child's arm or hand before applying to make sure the paint doesn't irritate the skin.
Avoid colored or decorative contact lenses, unless they have been prescribed by an eye doctor for your child.
Put a nametag — with your phone number — on your children's costumes.
Avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes that could cause kids to trip. Make sure the rest of the costume fits well, too, which can help prevent trips and falls.
Make sure that any props your kids carry, such as wands or swords, are short and flexible.
Don't let kids use knives. Have them draw their designs on the pumpkin with a black marker — then you or an older sibling can do the carving.
Keep kids at a safe distance while you're carving the pumpkin so that they don't distract you or get in the way of sharp objects.
Remove pumpkin guts safely. If your children beg to remove the guts of the pumpkin — as many kids do — don't hand over a knife to do it. Instead, let your little ones get messy by scooping out pumpkin flesh with their hands or an ice cream scoop.
Clean up the mess. Pumpkin flesh is slippery and can cause falls and injuries when dropped on the floor. Layer newspaper or old cloths under your carving workspace and clean up spills right away so no one slips or trips.
Skip the candles, which may cause fires. A burning candle in a pumpkin may become a blazing fire if left unattended. Instead, use a glow stick (available in many colors) or flameless candle to safely illuminate your jack-o'-lantern.
Accompany young children (under age 12). Make sure they know how to call 911 in case they get lost. Check to make sure they know their home phone number.
For older kids who are trick-or-treating on their own, find out the route they'll be taking and when they'll be coming home. Also be sure that they:
carry a cell phone, if possible
go in a group and stay together
only go to houses with porch lights on and walk on sidewalks on lit streets (never walk through alleys or across lawns)
walk from house to house (never run) and always walk facing traffic when walking on roads
stay away from candles and other flames
know to never go into strangers' homes or cars
cross the street at crosswalks and never assume that vehicles will stop
Give kids flashlights with new batteries. Kids may also enjoy wearing glow sticks as bracelets or necklaces.
Limit trick-or-treating to your neighborhood and the homes of people you and your children know.
When your kids get home, check all treats to make sure they're sealed. Throw out candy with torn packages or holes in the packages, spoiled items, and any homemade treats that haven't been made by someone you know.
Don't allow young children to have hard candy or gum that could cause choking.
Make sure trick-or-treaters will be safe when visiting your home, too. Remove anything that could cause kids to trip or fall on your walkway or lawn. Make sure the lights are on outside your house and light the walkway to your door, if possible. Keep family pets away from trick-or-treaters, even if they seem harmless to you.
Offer a filling meal before your kids head out to trick-or-treat so they won't scarf down too much of their haul.
Consider purchasing Halloween treats other than candy. Stickers, erasers, crayons, pencils, coloring books, and sealed packages of raisins and dried fruits are good choices.
Know how much candy your kids have collected and store it somewhere other than their bedrooms. Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Let kids have one or two treats a day instead of leaving candy out in big bags or bowls for kids to sample at will. Consider giving some of the treats away.
Take these quick and easy precautions to help your little ghosts and goblins have a hauntingly happy and safe Halloween.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD and Susan M. Kelly, MD