Halloween Health & Safety Tips
October 25, 2023
Halloween is a time for spooky thrills and imagination. But the holiday also brings some extra risks for children and teens.
Did you know that child pedestrian injuries are more likely on Halloween than on any other night of the year, for example? Help keep Halloween fun and safe for your family with these tips.
Safety on the Trick-or-Treat Trail
- Always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds. If trick-or-treating doesn’t start until after dark where you live, consider checking with your town or park district for Halloween activities offered earlier in the day. Research shows that evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. are the riskiest times of day for child pedestrians.
- If your older children are trick-or-treating alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home and get flashlights with batteries for everyone.
- Talk with kids about the risk of distracted walking. This includes text messaging, talking on or looking at the mobile phone and listening to music.
- Cross the street as a group in established crosswalks. Most (62%) child pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred mid-block, rather than at intersections. Make sure kids know not to cross the street between parked cars or out of driveways or alleys.
- Don’t assume cars will stop just because they have the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters.
- Stay on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic. Only go to homes with a porch light on and, ideally, a well-lit pathway.
- Older children should travel in groups and create a “buddy system” to get each other home safely.
- Caution kids never enter a home or car for a treat. Notify law enforcement authorities immediately about any suspicious or unlawful activity.
- Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost or is prone to wander. See “Help Prevent Your Child from Going Missing” for tips.
A message to parents of teen drivers: Before you let your child drive on Halloween, take precautions and set specific rules. Use this Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.
Preparing Your Home for Trick-or-Treaters
- Remove tripping hazards to keep your home safe for visiting trick-or-treaters. Keep the porch and front yard clear of items such as garden hoses, toys and bikes.
- Check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
- Sweep wet leaves from sidewalks and steps to prevent anyone from slipping on them.
- Restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
Children & dog bites: Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and also most likely to be severely injured. Teach your child never to pet a dog without asking permission first. Find more dog bit prevention tips here.
Costume Safety Tips
- Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
- Make sure that shoes fit well, and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, getting caught on objects or coming into contact with firepits.
- Look for “flame resistant” on the costume labels. Wigs and accessories should also clearly indicate this.
- Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes and blocking vision.
- Consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives to masks. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of your child’s skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises or allergic reactions on the big day. Toxic ingredients have been found in cosmetics marketed to teens and tweens.
- Avoid any sharp or long swords, canes or sticks as a costume accessory. Your child can easily be hurt by these accessories if he or she stumbles or trips.
- Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” getting decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
Pumpkins & Decorating Safety
- Never allow small children to carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Parents can do the cutting and then let little ones clean out the inside pulp and seeds. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand offers safe carving tips.
- Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
- Do not place candlelit pumpkins on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.
- Give your child a good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating; this will discourage filling up on Halloween treats.
- Consider offering non-edible goodies to trick-or-treaters. Halloween is one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Food Allergy Research & Education’s Teal Pumpkin Project suggests items such as glow sticks, spider rings, vampire fangs, pencils, bubbles, bouncy balls, finger puppets, whistles, bookmarks, stickers and stencils.
- Wait until children are home to sort and check treats before eating them. Though tampering is rare, it can happen. A responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
- Keep an eye on what your child has in their mouth at all times while on the trick-or-treat trail. Once your child is ready to enjoy treats at home, keep in mind that babies and toddlers should not have any hard candies, caramel apples, popcorn, gum, small candies (jellybeans, etc.), gummy candy, pumpkin seeds or anything with whole nuts. Candy wrappers, stickers, small toys or temporary tattoos can be a choking hazard, as well. As all parents know, babies and toddlers will put just about anything into their mouths!
- Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween. If you keep candy guidelines realistic, consistent and positive, your Halloween is less likely to be about arguing or controlling candy. Make a plan together so everyone knows what to expect. It’s also a great opportunity to teach your kids about moderation, balance and healthful indulging. Get tips for taming your child’s sweet tooth here.