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Sweet tricks for a safer Halloween

Leia Langhoff, DO

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Even as an adult, I enjoy the opportunity to get creative by dressing up as bottle of Heinz mustard (complete with squirty yellow silly string) or Princess Leia. For parents, watching your child dream up a costume or become their favorite character for a day is sheer joy.

However, for all the fun that this holiday brings, the darkness, candy, and costumes can carry some hidden risks. Here’s what you can do to keep your family safe and healthy on this deliciously spooky day.

Outdoor safety

  • Be seen. Use a flashlights, glow sticks, or headlamps so you can see and others can see you. (Be sure to keep glow sticks away from babies and toddlers who might be tempted to chew or bite them.) Avoid neighborhoods without sidewalks and choose areas that are well lit and designed for walking instead.
  • Stick together. Kids who are old enough to go out alone should stay with their group. Parents should be aware of where kids are going and when to expect them home.
  • Drive slow. If you are behind the wheel, drive extra slow. Excited and tired children are more prone to darting into the street. If you’ve been celebrating with alcohol, stay out of the driver’s seat.

Candy safety

  • Inspect candy. Candy tampering is extremely rare, but it’s a good idea to look over wrappers and discard anything that’s already opened. Throw away candy that has been made at home or that isn’t in its original packaging.
  • Listen for food recalls. Avoid foodborne illnesses by being aware of any candy or brands that have been recently recalled.
  • Check that candy is age appropriate. Because gum and hard candies can be a choking hazard, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they should not be given to children under age 5.
  • Watch for allergens. Trick-or-treating with a child who has food allergies can be nerve wracking. For peace of mind, bring an EpiPen along. You can also find homes that offer non-food treats as part of the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Costume safety

  • Keep the eyes clear. Masks that cover the eyes make it harder to see at night, and masks where children can’t see out to the sides make it more difficult to spot cars.
  • Avoid long costumes. Too much long fabric can be a tripping risk.
  • Dress for the weather. Keep kids warm by planning a cozy costume, adding layers underneath, and providing a jacket. It’s better to cover up part of a costume than to have a cold child.
  • Apply products safely. While color additives in face paints must be FDA approved, it’s still possible that they could irritate sensitive skin. Test products on a small area on the arm a few days before Halloween. Check the packaging to see if paints can be safely used near the eyes. You can also make your own face paint at home.

After a safe evening, the final thing parents have to think about is what to do with all that candy. On Halloween night, it’s fine to let kids splurge a little on sweets. However, try to avoid allowing children to get into their haul every day. You don’t want them to develop a candy habit—it’s not great for their teeth or their bodies. I recommend making candy a treat and limiting it to one or two small pieces after dinner, occasionally.

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Dr. Leia Langhoff is a family medicine physician at Vancouver Clinic. She focuses on providing holistic care and creating strong patient-provider relationships.