Health Notes

Top Ten Ways to Keep Kids Safe this Halloween

by Dr. Matt Gibson on October 25, 2016

In my house over the past three weeks, my four-year old has excitedly and sternly informed me of exactly what he’s going to be for Halloween this year. Not unsurprisingly, it has been a different costume each week.

First, before it was even October, my son declared he was going to be a walrus, “with giant teeth!” Last week, while riding in the car, he stated he wanted to be a bunny. Now, he wants to dress as a ghost because, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” (Apparently they’ve been listening to the Ghostbusters song at daycare.)

While for him and most children, the most difficult decisions with Halloween are what to dress as and exactly how much candy they can eat in one sitting, parents often have many more questions.

At their core, each parent seems to be concerned with how to let their kids have fun but also be safe when roaming the neighborhood taking candy from strangers. To help allay these fears, here this pediatrician’s tricks (and treats) to keep you and your toddlers, children and teens safe this Halloween:

1. Watch Out for Cars
There is a four-fold increase of child pedestrian accidents on Halloween compared to the typical day. Encourage everyone to look both ways before crossing the street and to use cross walks!

2. Channel Your Inner Zombie and Walk
While it can be exciting to trick-or-treat and collect candy, make sure everyone walks from door to door instead of running. Not only does this make it less likely to have someone run into the street, but makes them less likely to fall or run into each other while out in new clothes in the dark.

Dr. Matt Gibson
Matt Gibson, MD

3. Map It Out
Have a plan of where you will be trick-or-treating in advance. This will let you check out the best route to walk while in daylight and make sure no one gets left behind or lost on Halloween night.

4. Keep the Team Together
Trick-or-treat in a group if possible and make sure the group sticks together so no one is separated. Not only can it be scary and dangerous for young children to get lost in the shuffle, but this makes sure everyone has a good time and fun together. I recommend parents stay on the sidewalk together while children go up to each door and stand on the porch. It lets kids have independence but with an adult around if needed and to make sure kids aren’t going inside houses.

5. There’s Nothing Scarier than a Poor Fit
Kids can have great imaginations when it comes to Halloween, but regardless of costume, make sure it fits well and lets them move with ease. Long capes, robes, dresses, or other fabric can tangle around shoes and feet. Keep them short and well fitted. This will keep the costumed candy seekers happy and safe as they move from house to house and around the neighborhood.

6. Careful with Masks
A mask can sometimes make the costume, but a poorly made or ill-fitting mask can make it hard for children to see, breath or hear. If possible, use makeup as an alternative. If a mask is a must-have, keep it as small as possible and make sure it doesn’t obstruct your child’s ability to see and breathe comfortably.

7. Visibility is Key
Some costumes are darker in color by necessity (Darth Vader wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if he were orange), but when it comes to Halloween, make sure visibility isn’t lost at authenticity’s expense. Make sure each child has reflective tape or lighter sections on his or her costume, and sources of light such as a flashlight or glow-sticks incorporated into the look. This will allow children to see better and others to see them.

8. Practice the Costume Early
I’ve yet to find a child who doesn’t want to wear their costume before Halloween, and this is one time where parents can give in and let them. Often costumes are big and bulky, or just different from what their child normally wears. Allowing them to get comfortable early lets them be aware of themselves and how to move around, which is very important to navigate steps and around pumpkins with candles and other fire hazards. Teach your children to keep an eye out and make sure their costume doesn’t get tangled or caught in anything dangerous.

9. Check the Candy
While the dangers of poison, razors and needles in candy are overblown and unlikely, dangers still exist when collecting food from strangers. Before allowing your child to dig in, make sure all the candy is properly closed and does not appear spoiled. Most importantly, remove any candy that may pose a choking hazard to young children or contain known food allergens for those with allergies.

10. Spend Time on the Other Side of the Door
Although it is sometimes overlooked, some children enjoy being able to dress up and stay home to pass out candy and see all of the other costumes. Ask to see what your child might prefer. This often works well for those with multiple children and different age ranges. One parent or family member can stay home with one child to pass out candy while the older child trick-or-treats with the other parent, a friend or family member.

While Halloween can have its scary parts for both parents and children, with a little planning and foresight, everyone can have a fun and enjoyable time. Whether your child is a walrus, bunny, ghost or other costume this year, stay safe and have fun!

If you have more questions about staying safe this Halloween, talk to your Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician.

Dr. Matt Gibson is a pediatrician now seeing patients at
Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency.
Contact Dr. Gibson at MethodistPR@nmhs.org.
Dr. Matt Gibson

 

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