Play it Safe this Halloween

When it comes to Halloween, containing kids’ excitement is a real challenge. There’s decorations, costumes and candy – probably way too much of that. But even though everyone is having a lot of fun, it’s also important to play it safe. Your child isn’t likely to be chased by goblins or ghosts, but it’s possible she may trip and fall over her long princess gown or you may lose sight of him as he runs ahead of the group and into the street. As you start planning your Halloween celebration, keep these safety rules in mind so everyone has a good time.

Safety begins with a child’s Halloween costume. You want to find one that fits well and doesn’t obstruct her ability to clearly see the world around her. That means leaving the mask at home and using make-up or face paint (remember to try it on in advance in case there’s allergic reaction). Watch out for costumes that may be too long and could cause your child – or someone else – to trip. If there are any accessories, such as swords, make sure they are soft and remind the child to watch how it’s held so no one gets hit accidentally in the face.

Since most trick-or-treating is held in the late afternoon or early evening, it’s essential to make sure children are visible. Add some reflective tape to their costume or treat bag or have them don a glow necklace or carry a glow stick. You can also pick up a fun flashlight kids can use as they go from house to house. Not only will it help them stay visible to passing drivers, it will help them see better where they are going.

Go over traffic rules before heading out to trick-or-treat. It may be a challenge to get kids to listen since they’re so excited, but it’s vital to remind them to walk, not run from house to house, don’t run out between parked cars, use sidewalks when available and to always look both ways before crossing the street. Getting kids to not run is a big hurdle. Remind them there is enough candy and they’ll still get plenty by walking from house to house. When kids start running, there’s a higher possibility they could trip or stumble over something in the yard or on the road or they could dart in front of an oncoming car.

Parents also wonder when it’s ok for kids to go out on their own on Halloween with friends. I advise that children should be at least 12 and they must stay in a group – no one should walk alone on Halloween! Talk with your children about where they plan to go and tell them to be back at a set time. Have your kids leave their electronic devices at home since they can be a distraction (kids can bring their phone to call you). I’ve seen some trick-or-treaters walking around while listening to music, which makes it more difficult to hear any cars coming. If your children are younger than 12, tag along and keep an eye on them to make sure they’re staying together, staying out of traffic and walking from house to house.

Another safety tip that can’t be ignored is a reminder to not eat anything until they get home. I know this is a tough rule for many kids – especially the younger ones -- to follow, but it’s important that an adult inspects the candy to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. It’s also a good time to check if there’s any candy the kids can’t have – if it’s a potential choking hazard for a young child or something sticky that will get caught in an older child’s braces.

Halloween is a fun holiday and by following basic safety rules, you and your children can keep it that way.

Eileen Jekot, MD, is a pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Neenah.