LiveSmart: Trick or Treat! Tips for a Safe, Happy Halloween

[This piece was written by Mark Osborn, M.D., Chief of Pediatrics for St. Peter’s Hospital, and a provider with St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center.]

Next Tuesday is the big night! Your little zombies, princesses, and superheroes are undoubtedly counting down the days, looking forward to Halloween and the associated fun, parties, and trick or treating. Before you head out, though, a few simple precautions can make sure everyone has a safe and fun time.

Safety Begins at Home

  • First off, don’t forget your pets during trick or treating. For some pets, an evening of non-stop doorbell ringing and knocking on the door can be scary and stressful. It is best to keep them away from the front door, as well as the treats you are handing out.
  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. They can draw a face with markers, then parents can do the cutting.
  • Opt for a battery-powered tealight to illuminate your pumpkin instead of a candle.
  • Keep your front yard clear of hoses, toys, bikes and other obstacles.
  • Make sure your outdoor lights are working, both for safety and to indicate trick or treaters are welcome at your door!

On the Trek for Treats

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective and don’t hinder movement.
  • Only buy costumes with labels saying they are flame-resistant. Review “stop, drop and roll” in case of fire.
  • Think twice before allowing children to carry simulated weapons as part of their costume.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young kids.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan the route and set a time for them to return home.
  • Make sure children know to never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remember:

  • Carry flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and escorts.
  • Stay in a group on well-lit streets and sidewalks.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing pedestrians – just because one car stops doesn’t mean others will!
  • Be alert! Children and parents alike need to stow away the smart phone while out and about for treats. Don’t be staring at your device when you should be aware of your surroundings.

 Keeping it Healthy

  • Have a good meal beforehand to discourage youngsters from filling up on treats.
  • When the kids return, throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious treats.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children ages 5 and younger should not be allowed hard candies. For that group, hard candies are the number one food choking hazard to result in an emergency room visit.
  • Be sure to give teeth an extra-good flossing and brushing that night to remove sugars and decrease the opportunity for decay.

St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center (1092 Madison Avenue, Albany – 518-525-2445) offers a complete range of services for children from newborns to age 18. Services include well-child routine care, sick child exams, school and camp physicals, sports physicals, immunizations, health maintenance and education, and access to other hospital services and referrals to specialists.

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