Take the “Scare” Out of Halloween with These Safety Tips
By Gayle Whitworth, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County
Reviewed by Lisa Leslie, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at UF/IFAS Extension-Hillsborough County
Halloween has become an extremely popular and exciting holiday in the US, with a long lead-up and a lot of money being spent on costumes, parties, and decorations. However, ghouls and ghosts aren’t the only “scary” things to be on the lookout for this October 31st. While Halloween is a fun and festive time for families, unfortunately, it can also be a time of increased injury and danger. According to a Safe Kids Worldwide study, while three quarters of parents surveyed report having fears related to safety at Halloween, only a third of them talk to their children each year about this topic. If you have a child that will be participating in Halloween festivities, review these simple steps to help make this Halloween a safe and exciting time for all.
Whether they’re dressing to scare or to be the belle of the ball, it’s important that we make sure our children are safe in their costumes. Make sure that both store-bought and homemade outfits are properly fitted. Costumes that are too long or too big could pose tripping hazards, so be certain to hem or cut the bottoms to fit, and use belts to hold up those that are too big. Ensure that shoelaces are securely tied, and avoid big, floppy shoes, which can pose a tripping hazard.
Try to avoid costumes with sleeves that hang low, as they could catch on fire if exposed to open flames. If purchasing costumes, make sure they are labeled “flame retardant” or “flame resistant.”
To make sure children can see properly, it’s best to use face paint or makeup rather than masks. If a child does wear a mask, check that it fits properly and that the eyeholes are wide enough to allow him or her to see clearly.
Helping your child be visible is important, especially if trick-or-treating outdoors. To make your child more obvious to drivers, choose costumes that are bright, and consider decorating all costumes with retro-reflective tape or stickers. To increase visibility even more, have your child carry a flashlight, glow stick, or reflective trick-or-treat bag
Finally, if your child will be carrying any props or accessories, make sure they are made of soft, flexible materials to protect against injuries.
Before leaving for trick-or-treating, talk with your children about the goodies they will receive. Discuss with them the importance of bringing all goodies home before eating. To help reduce temptations, make sure they are well fed prior to their outing.
Although incidents of foreign objects in Halloween treats or unsafe treats are very rare, it’s still a good idea to be cautious. Look over the goodies before giving the “go ahead.” Treats that are open or not in their original wrappers or homemade treats from sources unknown should be discarded. Any fruits received should be sliced open before eating to check for foreign objects.
Children under 4 should not be given hard candy or gum, as these items are a choking risk. You should also separate out nonedible items for young children, so that toddlers don’t accidentally chow down on a plastic spider ring!
Driving & Pedestrian Safety
According to the CDC, children are four times more likely to be hit and killed by a car on October 31 than on any other night, especially if they are out at the time when adults are driving home from work. In fact, more than twice as many children are killed in pedestrian vs. vehicle incidents on October 31 between 4pm and 10pm as compared to the same hours on other days throughout the year.
Drivers can help change this statistic by being mindful of the activity going on around them and by slowing down. When in residential areas, drivers should be on high alert and drive slowly. Cell phones should be put away and other possible distractions should be avoided so that drivers can concentrate on the road and the increased pedestrian traffic on and near the road. Make sure to take the time to scan for children at intersections and on medians and curves, and use extra caution and proceed slowly when entering and exiting driveways. Finally, to increase visibility of pedestrians from a greater distance, drivers should drive with full headlights on.
Kids and parents can also do their part by following safety rules when trick-or-treating in a residential area. Children under the age of 12 should have an adult present when trick-or-treating. Older children should trick-or-treat with a friend or in a group. Always trick-or-treat in areas that are familiar to you and that are well lit, and walk on sidewalks or paths when available. If none are present, walk facing traffic, as far to the left as possible.
If kids will need to cross a street, make sure they do so only at corners or crosswalks. Remind them to stop, then look left, right, and then left again before crossing. Don’t allow children to cross between parked cars where their view of oncoming traffic, and that of motorists, could be blocked. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing a road and keep an eye out for vehicles that are backing up or turning.
Always stress walking and not running from house-to-house. Teach children to walk only on driveways and walkways. Never allow children to walk through yards and lawns where hidden objects and holes could cause falls.
Home Decorating Safety
Finally, to help do your part in keeping trick-or-treaters and your own family safe, take steps to check your decorations. When decorating around the home, avoid using candles. Consider using a small flashlight as an alternative to a candle in your jack-o-lantern. If you do use a candle, place it well away from where trick-or-treaters may knock it over or where costumes may come in contact with it.
Take a walk through your lawn and clear it and any walkways of any tripping hazards, and provide clearly illuminated walkways and porches to avoid trips and falls.
Finally, avoid overloading electrical outlets with holiday lighting or decorations.
Halloween is becoming one of America’s favorite holidays, and with good reason. With just a little pre-planning and a few discussions, children can enjoy a truly safe Halloween and all of the fun and festivities it brings.
(Photo credit: 2010 Halloween Trick or Treating October 31, 201014 by Steven Depolo. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)
Best, J. (2013). Safe, Happy Halloween From ‘World’s Leading Authority on Poisoned Candy’. Retrieved from http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/10/31/309911.htm
Centers for Disease Control. Childhood Pedestrian Deaths during Halloween – United States, 1975-1996. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/PrevGuid/m0049687/m0049687.asp
Safe Kids Worldwide. (October 2011). Halloween Safety: A National Survey of Parents’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors. Retrieved from http://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/documents/ResearchReports/halloween-research-report.pdf
Safe Kids Worldwide. (2014). Halloween Safety Tips. Retrieved from http://www.safekids.org/tip/halloween-safety-tips
Whitworth, G. (2009). Tips for a Safe Halloween. For Safety’s Sake. Volume 1, Issue 10.
Whitworth, G. (2010). Safety Tips for a Happy Halloween. For Safety’s Sake. Volume 2, Issue 9.