October 18, 2023

Hidden hazards of Halloween

Parents should take precautions to help their children avoid illness and injury this Halloween.

With Halloween comes surprising health hazards that are scarier than ghosts or goblins.

Taking a few precautions can help parents ensure that their Halloween is safe and not too scary.

Liberty Lowe, MD, a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente San Juan Capistrano Medical Offices, says parents should take precautions to keep children safe and avoid injury or illness this Halloween.

“I always recommend that parents keep their children up to date on vaccinations, including COVID-19 and flu, to prevent them from picking up any illnesses during Halloween parties,” said Dr. Lowe.

Parents should encourage children to wash their hands with soap and water before and after going trick-or-treating and before all meals. To maximize protection, you can incorporate a surgical or N-95 mask into your child’s costume.

Dr. Lowe also listed 5 additional precautions parents should take to ensure Halloween is safe and healthy.

1. Know what your children are eating

Allow your children to eat only factory-wrapped treats and candy and only 1 to 3 pieces of candy a day to limit their sugar intake.

For parents whose children have food allergies, read all food labels, avoid treats without labels, and carry an epinephrine auto-injector if prescribed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies account for 35% to 50% of all cases of severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen.

2. Carve the pumpkins

“Everyone loves carving pumpkins for Halloween, but knife-related injuries can cause severe damage to nerves, tendons, and even arteries,” cautioned Dr. Lowe.

She recommends that children participate in the safe aspects of this tradition — such as spooning out the pulp and seeds or drawing the pattern on the pumpkin — and leave the knife work to an adult.

3. Use caution with spooky candle lighting

To avoid a fire hazard, light up your jack-o-lantern with an electric candle or glowstick. Take care when using real candles, especially near flammable decorations and costumes. Never leave candles unattended or in a place where they can be kicked or knocked over, like the driveway.

4. Pick hazard-free costumes for kids

Make sure your child’s costume fits well in length to avoid a tripping hazard and doesn’t include small pieces that could become a choking hazard. Any costume masks should have eye holes large enough for the child to see clearly

Be cautious when applying makeup. Test a small amount on your child’s arm and check for rashes, redness, or swelling (which could indicate an allergic reaction) and avoid applying makeup near the eyes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nonprescription contact lenses should be avoided, as they can scratch and infect your eyes, which can lead to permanent damage such as blindness.

5. Review pedestrian safety with kids

Give children flashlights or glowsticks for lighting and consider sticking reflective armbands or reflective tape on shoes, bags, or costumes to ensure drivers can see your children. Review street safety with your kids and make sure an adult watches the little ones at all times.

“Taking a few precautions can help parents ensure that their Halloween is safe and not too scary,” said Dr. Lowe.