October 18, 2022

7 scary Halloween health hazards

A Kaiser Permanente pediatrician offers valuable advice to ensure families have a safe and happy Halloween.

Now that a majority of Californians have been vaccinated and COVID-19 is more under control, Halloween trick-or-treating is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels. That means we’re likely to see more ghosts, goblins, vampires, and witches walking down neighborhood streets.

For parents and guardians, keeping children safe during this festive holiday will be the main priority. Laura Farach, MD, a pediatrician for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, notes that although parents may feel more at ease having their children trick-or-treat this Halloween, there are important safety precautions they need to follow to avoid injury and illness.

She stressed the importance of children being up to date with their COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. Additionally, Dr. Farach described 7 scary health hazards parents should know about to ensure families have a safe and happy Halloween.

1. Food allergies

When it comes to candy, peanuts, and other foods, it’s always important to read labels and avoid treats without labels. It’s essential to 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 in children and adults. In addition, it’s paramount to only eat factory-wrapped treats and candy as that is a safer practice.

2. COVID-19

While COVID-19 may not be as big a concern for parents this Halloween, Dr. Farach encourages children to wear a mask as part of their costume, when possible, to maximize protection. Also, children should always wash their hands with soap upon returning from trick-or-treating. 

3. Costumes

It’s important to ensure that a child's mask has large enough eye holes for them to see clearly. Children should wear bright and reflective costumes, and parents should beware of any small parts on costumes on which a child could choke. Also, check the length of costumes to make sure they don’t cause your child to trip.

4. Face paint  

Before you apply makeup near your child’s eyes, beware that it could contain harmful chemicals. If makeup is applied, it should be applied first in small amounts to the arm of the person who will be wearing it. The appearance of a rash or other signs of irritation could indicate an allergic reaction. 

5. Hand injury

Pumpkin carving is a cherished Halloween tradition many families enjoy each year. However, carving knife injuries can lead to nerve, tendon, and artery damage. Encourage children to draw the pattern on the pumpkin but leave the knife work to adults.

6. Fire hazards

What’s a Halloween without decorating your home with spooky decorations and, in many cases, lighted ornaments? Dr. Farach warns that using candles can present some truly scary fire safety hazards. Lighting up your jack-o-lantern with LED lights or electric candles is the safest option, she says.

7. Walking after dark

Last, but not least, Dr. Farach encourages parents to provide children with flashlights or glow sticks to light their way and provide greater visibility so drivers may see them easily while they’re outside. Additionally, review street safety ahead of time with children.