Dr. First on Halloween

Dr. Lewis First is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital

It seems like only last year that I was teaching you a few safety tricks to make Halloween a treat for you and your children. Well, here we are a year later, and many of you are asking me for a few more hints to prevent Halloween from being a safety nightmare for anyone.

First, it is important to know that while people always worry about the safety of the treats your children bring home, the most serious injuries on Halloween involve eye injuries from carrying sharp objects, burns from flammable costumes, and injuries from collisions with cars.  If you want to prevent these from happening, here are some tips:

  1. If you are a trick-or-treater, remember to see and be seen. Avoid masks that can block your vision and replace them with non-toxic, hypoallergenic face paint or make-up.  Wear bright-colored, non-baggy, flame-retardant costumes with reflective tape.  Carry a flashlight, stay on the sidewalk, and approach only houses that are lit and in a neighborhood you know well.
  2. If you are the parent of a trick-or-treater, make sure your children are well-fed before they go out, so you can inspect what they bring home before they want to eat it. My motto in this case is, “when in doubt, throw it out.”  Even if tampering with Halloween treats is rare, it can still happen.  And don’t forget: small, hard candies can be a choking hazard for young children.
  3. Parents should accompany children under 10 on their trick-or-treating route. Make sure that older children are traveling in groups.  Know the route they plan to take, and give them a time to be home.  Give them a cell phone if you can, so they can reach you and you can reach them.  Remember that the smaller the trick or treat bag, the shorter the distance traveled.
  4. If you are a home that will be giving out treats, make sure your yard is clear of anything that could trip up a child – or adult – such as hoses, wet leaves, or flower pots. Don’t forget to keep lit pumpkins far out of the way of trick-or-treaters.  Remember that a candle in a pumpkin can be a fire hazard: a glow stick is a safer way to go and can light up that pumpkin just fine.

Hopefully tips like this will scare away any concerns you might have when it comes to making sure your Halloween is not frightening, but a safe holiday for all involved.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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