LiveSmart: Trick or Treat! Safety First for a Happy, Healthy 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.]

Tomorrow is the big night – Halloween! It’s a lot of kids’ favorite holiday and for good reason – the school parties, the chance to dress up in a costume, walking around with friends (and parents) after dark and, of course, the treats.

Although concerns about the safety of treats comes up every year, the fact is most injuries that send kids to emergency departments on this holiday have nothing to do with candy.

The National Safety Council noted children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. While pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, other common reasons kids visited the hospital included burns from flammable costumes, hand injuries from pumpkin carving, and eye injuries from sharp objects.

Kids will be visiting porches with pumpkins that have lit candles inside. A flammable costume can ignite quickly, even from brief contact with a fire source. Exercise caution even with a flame-resistant costume: It will only “resist” burning. It can catch on fire, though it is made to extinguish quickly.

If your child is wearing a mask, make sure it fits properly. The eyeholes should be large enough to allow full vision, and check for rough edges that could cause an eye abrasion. Also, be certain your child can breathe normally behind the mask.

If his/her costume has accessories like a sword, wand or cane, it is safest if they are made of soft, flexible material. This will help reduce the severity of any eye injuries in the event the child trips or swings the item with other children around.

If you go out trick or treating, remember:

  • Carry flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and escorts.
  • If the costume is dark, decorate it with reflective tape or fabric paint on both the front and back. Reflective tape is available in hardware, bicycle and sporting goods stores.
  • Shoes should fit well and be sturdy; keep in mind your child will be walking up steps and over unfamiliar terrain.
  • 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.

For more Halloween safety tips, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

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

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