Your Health

Think safe and don't be afraid of Halloween

Kids in Halloween costumes
Photo of Dr. Lynne Warda DR. LYNNE WARDA
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Updated Friday, October 30, 2018

With Halloween around the corner, now is a good time to review some tips for ensuring your little ghosts and ghouls remain safe this year.

Let's start with carving the pumpkin. When it comes to general pumpkin preparation, little kids shouldn't do much more than draw a design on the pumpkin or scoop out the seeds. Leave the carving to an adult. Also, never use candles in pumpkins or other decor inside your home. Instead, use battery-operated candles, which won't set fires if the pumpkin is knocked over.

Choose costumes wisely. If your child hasn't already settled on a costume, put together one that is more visible in the dark and doesn't limit your child's vision. Costumes shouldn't be so long or complicated that they overwhelm your kid's ability to walk, and headpieces should have clear lines of sight.

Choose face paint over a mask for this reason. Look for costumes that are labelled "flame resistant," and if a sword, cane or stick is part of the costume, make sure it's not sharp.

Using reflective tape or flashing lights on costumes will help put drivers on the alert. Carrying a flashlight is another way to signal your presence to drivers.

Travel as a group. Younger children should have adult supervision. Use the sidewalks when possible, or walk on the side of the road, facing traffic. Go to houses that have lights on, and don't cut across yards.

Older kids should travel with a buddy or two. Never go alone; it's no fun. If your older child is heading out without your supervision, plan a route in advance, make sure they have a phone, and make sure you know where your child will be going and when they will return. Remind them to only accept treats at the doorway. They shouldn't go further into the house, or get into a stranger's car.

Remind your older trick-or-treaters to follow the rules of the road and be extra careful on the streets. Drivers may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will. Cross the street at intersections. Stay on well-lit streets and use the sidewalks.

Consider community events. Many parents opt to attend them with younger children. Going trick-or-treating at a community club or mall gives you the Halloween experience, without worrying about traffic.

Take note of teal pumpkins. These are part of an effort to make Halloween safer for kids who may have allergies to ingredients commonly found in candy and chocolates, such as nuts, wheat or dairy.

If your child has allergies, look for houses with a teal-coloured pumpkin or a poster showing a teal pumpkin. This is a signal that the residents of the house are handing out non-food treats, to allow kids with allergies to participate in the Halloween tradition and keep their loot.

If you wish to participate in the teal-pumpkin idea, paint a pumpkin or put up a poster. But as you select your non-candy goodies to hand out, keep these safety rules in mind:

  • Don't hand out small items that could be a choking hazard, such as tiny erasers or toys that come with button batteries.
  • Be aware some mouldable clays contain wheat, and some toys contain latex, both of which can trigger allergic reactions.

One final reminder: an adult should check through the loot bag when everyone returns home. Throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Have a spooky (and safe) Halloween!

Dr. Lynne Warda is Medical Director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Injury Prevention Program. A version of this column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Oct. 30, 2015.

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