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How to have a safe Halloween without sacrificing the fun

October 29, 2021
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If you’re not careful, Halloween could dole out more tricks than treats!

Hospitals around the country have reported more emergency room visits on Halloween because of easily avoided holiday mishaps.

Safety Tips for Pumpkin Carving

Even before the October 31 festivities, many people get into the Halloween spirit with some pumpkin carving!

“Pumpkin carving is a beloved part of the Halloween season for many families when adults and children pick up knives and other dangerous tools to create their scary jack-o-lanterns,” said Dr. Pranay Parikh of Baystate Hand and Wrist Surgery.

“Unfortunately, each year at this time we see hand and finger injuries, many of which are tendon lacerations, that are preventable,” he added.

Dr. Parikh and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand offer the following tips on how to prevent carving injuries and keep your family time fun and safe:

  • Clean Carving Area – Be sure you carving space is clean, dry and well-lit. Your hands should be dry, as should all of your tools.
  • Adult Supervision – Adults should always do the actual carving. Let the children draw an outline on the pumpkin and clean out the pulp.
  • Sharper Isn’t Better – Super sharp knives can get stuck in the pulp and be difficult to pull out. Instead, use a serrated pumpkin saw from a carving kit.
  • Proper Technique – Always carve away from the body, not toward the body, in case of a slip. Carve slowly and steadily.
  • Explore Alternatives – Pumpkin decorating kits are safe and equally fun.

“I recommend using only the tools provided in a carving kit for your pumpkins,” said Dr. Parikh.

Many kits come prepacked with stencils, carving saws and scoops.

How to Trick-Or-Treat Safely

Safe Kids urges parents to prepare children to act safely and drivers to take extra precautions.

On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year.

BEFORE HEADING OUT

According to Safe Kids, children need proper safety instructions before they go out trick-or-treating. Many kids will be out trick-or-treating while it is dark when it is more difficult for drivers to see them.

Parents need to remind kids about safety while walking before they go out trick-or-treating. Children should bring flashlights or glow sticks with them, carry reflective bags, or have reflective tape on their costumes to increase visibility to drivers.

Summers suggests parents look for non-flammable costumes and non-toxic designations when choosing Halloween makeup and make sure their children wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes to prevent trips and falls. Children should not wear masks which may inhibit their ability to see hazards.

PREPARING OLDER CHILDREN

Safe Kids recommends that children under age 10 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.

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.
  • Children should only go to homes where the residents are known and there are outside lights on as a sign of welcome.
  • 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 should be extra careful on Halloween

Drivers need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm.

Safe Kids also reminds motorists to be extra careful this Halloween and recommends that drivers:

  • 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 distance.
  • Be especially alert. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are during the typical rush-hour period between 5:30-9:30 p.m.

How to stay healthy while digging into Halloween candy

Although pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents also need to keep in mind that a "healthy" Halloween is as important as a "safe" Halloween.

How to handle food allergies and health concerns

It’s a good idea to accompany a young child with food allergies on Halloween night, so he or she doesn’t decide to sneak a taste of an unhealthy treat.

To avoid a sugar overload, make sure your kids feast on their spoils in moderation.

Dr. Rushika Conroy, a pediatric endocrinologist at Baystate Children’s Hospital, who treats kids with diabetes – many of whom are overweight and have type 2 diabetes – issues a challenge to families during the Halloween season.

“I suggest that they make a contest out of their Halloween candy by seeing how long they can make it last. I tell them to aim for Christmas. One small candy a day or every other day is certainly better than eating the whole bag in three days,” said Dr. Conroy.

Don’t forget to do a candy check

Parents and kids should also be careful with any candy received.

Check each piece of candy for signs of tampering before letting your child eat them. Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers.

Keep Halloween healthy without stifling the fun

Can you ever really have a sugar-free Halloween?

“Probably not, when it’s truly all about the treats. But there are other ways, too, that kids can still have fun with more than just candy and sugar,” said Nancy Anderson RD, a pediatric clinical dietitian at Baystate Children’s Hospital.

Anderson, along with the Massachusetts Dietetic Association, offers the following tips on how to successfully get through Halloween, the most sugar-coated holiday of the year, in an epidemic of overweight kids and diabetes:

  • Hand out useful treats, such as fake tattoos, stickers, or plastic spider rings.
  • After trick or treating, go through your child’s candy and allow them to keep only their favorite pieces in order to pare down their stash, and save on calories, fat, and sugar. Also, allow children to eat a couple of pieces per day to spread out the stash and make it part of other healthier snack options.
  • Try other fun Halloween activities such as carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds for fiber and minerals, bobbing for apples, going for a hayride, or visiting a haunted house or other holiday attractions.

“Even if you or your child turns into a sugar goblin on Halloween, remember that healthy eating habits are determined by the food choices you make day after day, and one night of poor eating will not undermine an otherwise healthy diet,” said Anderson.

And, Dr. Conroy agrees.

“Having fun by turning into a sugar goblin for a day is not a license to abandon your return to healthy eating,” she said.

Should your children wear masks while Trick-or-Treating?

Taking part in Halloween activities can be a concern for parents whose kids are too young to receive be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says trick-or-treating outdoors in small groups is safe. But Walensky said it’s probably best to avoid going to crowded, indoor Halloween parties.

In Massachusetts, children under five years old are not required to wear a face mask.

Make sure to review face mask rules for your area.

Springfield has a citywide mask mandate until November 1st in any indoor public setting or outdoors when you can’t social distance. Costume masks do not count as face masks.

Read the city’s full Halloween safety guidelines.