By Lauren Robb
Halloween can be a wonderful time for families. But with all of the excitement that the holiday brings, it can be easy to let safety take a back seat. Dr. Bridget Boyd, a pediatric safety expert and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, has compiled some tips for families that can help keep Halloween night safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Her biggest piece of advice is that families should try to go trick-or-treating together instead of letting children go out alone. While the kids may want to go without mom and dad as they enter their middle school years, Boyd says that a child should only be allowed to go out with only peers if he or she:
- Can follow directions and understand a map so he or she won’t get lost
- Knows his or her neighbors and the neighborhood
- Knows how to call 911
- Knows his or her own phone number
If a child does go trick-or-treating without an adult, Boyd highlights how important it is for parents to communicate their expectations to their children and to create some ground rules. She suggests the following rules:
- Always stay in a group.
- Create a specific trick-or-treating route together beforehand, and make sure that your kids know not to stray from it.
- Consider giving one of the children a cell phone in case of an emergency.
- Stress pedestrian safety; make sure that they will use sidewalks and crosswalks.
Boyd also has some general safety advice for parents during Halloween:
- Don’t let kids eat candy while trick-or-treating; parents need to inspect all candy first.
- If a child is wearing a dark-colored costume, make sure that it has some sort of reflector so that it will show up when crossing the street.
- Costumes need to be flame-resistant.
- Use nontoxic makeup instead of masks since masks can obscure vision.
- Try to stay away from capes and costumes that are too long; these can be a tripping hazard or even catch on fire from candles in jack-o-lanterns.
- Decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye infections, especially if purchased from a costume shop; purchasing contact lenses without a prescription is dangerous for your health and is illegal—this includes decorative lenses.
- Be careful with accessories; if you have young children, make sure the necklaces, etc., are not a choking hazard and that swords are flexible or are not sharp.
- Make sure that you know where your kids are supposed to be, who they are with and when they will be home; stay in contact with them throughout the night.
- Use care when carving pumpkins. Do all carving on a solid, flat surface and, for parents with young children, try using markers, stickers or paint instead.
Halloween can be a lot of fun, but it’s important for parents to teach their children how to enjoy the holiday safely. If parents place an emphasis on safety early on, families can look forward to an enjoyable night of trick-or-treating and many more to come.