That's why Halloween can occasionally be associated with accidents or other troubles, but with a little planning and preparation, parents can usually ensure the occasion is a fun activity for their children and themselves.
Here are some tips for a safer Halloween, some of which are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Betty Lowe with Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Costumes should fit well, be bright, easily seen and short to prevent tripping. Little girls love high-heeled shoes, but the shoes should fit well.
Costumes, wigs and accessories should all be flame-retardant. If your child insists on the black witch costume, consider attaching reflective strips as part of the costume or attach strips to trick-or-treat bags for better visibility.
Some experts have found that children who are wearing super hero costumes (such as Batman, Superman, etc.) are more likely to display behavior which will put them at risk of serious injuries. They may try feats such as jumping off the top bunk in an attempt to “fly.” It is helpful to explain to your children the difference between reality and the fantasy that can be encouraged from wearing various costumes.
Avoid masks and hats that limit or block eyesight. Consider non-toxic make-up as an alternative to masks.
Be cautious with swords, canes or other props, making sure they are not too sharp or too long.
Small children should never carve a pumpkin. They can draw the face, but parents should be the only ones who handle a knife.
Votive candles or battery-powered lights are the safest for lighted pumpkins. Lighted pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy base and placed outside the home, away from flammable objects.
Check outdoor lights and replace any burned-out bulbs.
Make sure sidewalks, porches, etc. are free from hoses, toys, bikes, and other obstructions that can trip children.
Pets should be restrained so they will not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
Children should always be accompanied by a parent or another responsible adult during trick-or-treating.
All children and adults should carry flashlights with fresh batteries. Trick-or-treaters should stay with the group, communicate where they are going, go only to homes with a porch light on, stay on well-lighted streets and always use the sidewalk.
Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.
Mobile phones should be carried for quick communication and your children should know how to call 911 or the local emergency number in case they have an emergency or they become lost.
If older children are going trick-or-treating alone, have them plan a route that is reviewed and is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time that they should return home.
If you are concerned that your neighborhood is not a safe place for your children to trick-or-treat, consider taking your children to a Halloween party or a public celebration of Halloween at a local zoo, museum, etc.
If you are not comfortable with the usual trick-or-treating, develop a different Halloween tradition such as an event at home or a trip to the zoo.
All that candy
If your children have a good meal before they begin trick-or-treating, they will be less likely to fill up on Halloween candy.
Consider purchasing non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
Have your children wait until they return home to sort and check their treats. A responsible adult should closely examine all treats.
Throw away candy that is not wrapped or suspicious.
Ration how much candy children may eat over the next several days.
Make sure children thoroughly brush their teeth.
This year, since H1N1 (flu) is so rampant, you should consider additional precautions.
If your child is sick, has been sick, has any cold or flu-like symptoms or diarrhea - they should stay at home to help prevent exposure to others. Be extra diligent this year in passing out candy and Halloween treats. Wash your hands or use your hand sanitizer. (Sick children should not handle or pass out Halloween candy or treats.) Consider using hand sanitizer after each trick-or-treat visit. If your child or someone in your household has active flu, consider not accepting trick-or-treaters to help eliminate exposure to the illness. Plan an in-house activity for your sick child.
Halloween is a fun time for children and with thoughtful preparation it can certainly be a happy family occasion.
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