Halloween is just around the corner. While it may be a fun night of costumes and candy, it’s considered to be one of the most dangerous nights of the year for child pedestrians. According to Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts, headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital, on average twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year.
Dr. Bryant Benson, a pediatrician at Baystate Children’s Hospital, urges parents to take extra precautions and prepare children to act safely on Halloween night. He says there are several simple and effective behaviors that parents can share with kids to help reduce their risk of injury.
Select Safe Costumes
The first step to a safe Halloween is picking out the right costume. The goal when looking for a costume is to make sure your child is as visible as possible. Pick costumes with lighter colors for better visibility. If your child insists on a darker color costume, use reflective tape on their cape or the backs of their arms so cars can see them easier.
Trip and falls are a common injury seen on Halloween night. To avoid tripping hazards stay away from gowns, capes and other costumes that are too long and can cause your child to trip and hurt themselves. Instead, shorten the costumes or opt for another style, and the same advice pertains to shoes. It is important to wear a comfortable pair of shoes that fit properly.
Masks are popular, but they can be a real safety hazard. Many masks have tiny eye slits that make it hard for children to see oncoming cars. It also makes it difficult for them to see the ground, often causing them to trip and get hurt. An alternative option is to make the eye slits bigger or forget the mask altogether and go with a hat or face paint. Also, try and avoid costumes that have long swords. If the sword is too long it can easily pop-up and hit children in eye.
Staying Safe on the Roads
Once you’ve got the right costume, it’s time to plan out your trip. Try to trick-or-treat earlier in the evening, closer to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., as opposed to 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. when the sun is completely down and it is harder for drivers to see you.
It’s important to make sure your child is as visible as possible. Provide your child with a flashlight, glow stick or anything that will help them stand out and be visible to motorists. Not only will these devices be popular with kids, but they will help keep them safe and be more easily seen on the road.
It’s recommended that children under age 12 do not trick-or-treat without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to go trick-or-treating without supervision, make sure they go in a group and they stick to a predetermined route with good lighting in a familiar neighborhood. Parents must also remind kids to:
• Cross streets safely. Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Look left, right and left again when crossing, and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don't run, across the street.
• Walk on well-lit sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk in familiar areas with minimal street crossings.
• Be a safe pedestrian around cars. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
Drivers need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm. Here are a few steps recommended for motorists to be extra careful this Halloween:
• Be especially alert. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are during the typical rush-hour period between 5:30-9:30 p.m.
• Drive more slowly. Slow down and anticipate heavier than usual pedestrian traffic.
• Lights on. Be sure to drive with your full headlights on so you can spot children from greater distances.
Don’t want to hit the streets? Many malls and shopping centers have trick-or-treating events where children and parents can enjoy the festivities without being out in the elements.
When it comes to trick-or-treating, many parents find themselves asking is the candy safe? The vast majority of candy is safe, but there are a few things that you should take into consideration:
Open up your child’s bag of candy before he or she digs in. Ensure that all candy is properly wrapped and that there aren’t any rips or tears in the wrappers. When it comes to handmade items, use your judgment. If it’s something made by someone you know and trust, then it should be okay. However, you may want to discard any items made by strangers.
Regulating your child’s trick-or-treat candy intake may be easier said than done. Really it’s all about setting limits. If you let them, kids would come home and finish the whole bag in one night. However, it’s important to limit the amount they have because candy is not the healthiest thing for them to have a lot of.
Having too much can lead to a stomach ache and unhealthy eating pattern where they binge when they have sweets in front of them. It’s important to teach them portion control. For instance, try telling them, “Tonight we’ll only have three or four pieces of candy.” It will help them understand that every day you will have a little bit but you can’t have it all at once.
Advice for children with gluten sensitivity and allergies
Halloween can be a hard time for children with food allergies or sensitivities to gluten. However, there are a few things you can do to allow them to enjoy the day too. When you come back with your bag of loot, be sure to check the ingredients in all of your candy before letting your child eat it. One fun way of handling this is to have your child go out in a group. That way you can make an activity out of separating the candy they can’t eat and have them trade it with friends that can have those items.
Parents also need to consider their child’s safety from Halloween treats and snacks provided at school and other holiday parties. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on young children with food allergies on Halloween night ,so he or she doesn’t decide to sneak a taste of a potentially dangerous treat.
For more information on Baystate Children’s’ Hospital, visit baystatehealth.org/bch.