In just a couple weeks, parents and children will hit the streets to enjoy trick-or-treating and other Halloween community events. For many, Halloween already has a reputation of being an unhealthy holiday, with the focus falling on limiting candy consumption to a reasonable level. But even before we fill buckets with sweet treats, it’s important to consider other health and safety issues that could put a damper on this fall holiday.
As many of 4,400 people in the United States visit emergency rooms for Halloween-related injuries. Falling and tripping on costumes, allergic reactions to costumes or food, and knife-related injuries were the most common reasons for these visits, although burns were also a serious issue that required medical attention.
The good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented before Halloween trick-or-treating even begins. So as you begin to decorate and prepare for a night of fun on All Hallows' Eve, we recommend taking the following steps to make your holiday plans a little healthier and a little safer:
- Thoroughly evaluate your costume options. Pre-made costumes and homemade costumes alike need our attention to ensure they don’t lead to a Halloween hospital visit. For example, by picking an outfit that fits, you’ll reduce your risk of tripping or falling; this means finding a costume that is not too tight, not too loose, and does not drag on the ground. Similarly, adults and children alike need to wear masks that do not obscure their vision. If a mask makes it difficult to see, consider not wearing it at all, or at least altering it so that you can clearly watch for traffic, people, and trip hazards during your Halloween night stroll. And accessories such as swords or knives should be made of soft, flexible material, just to be safe. Speaking of just being safe, always check that the fabrics you use and wear are flame resistant, just in case you get up close to a Jack-o’-lantern this holiday!
- Carve with caution. For many, Halloween simply requires a beautifully carved jack-o’-lantern. But while this tradition often leads to some incredibly beautiful or spooky decorations, mishandling the sharp knives and tools used for carving can create a recipe for disaster. To reduce your risk of dealing with a carving-related injury, follow these excellent carving tips from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand - they've even put together a fun infographic to help you through the process!
- Don’t be afraid of the light. Sure, dim lighting is perfect for setting the mood on Halloween - but the excited children who will be trick-or-treating need to be able to safely navigate their way to your door. To ensure that no one is hurt on their night of candy hunting, be sure to set up decorations that will keep your house, porch, and steps well-lit, and always double check that any outdoor lights and cords will not create a tripping hazard for visitors.
- Secure your decorations. Hanging props, porch decorations, window displays…there are lots of decorating options for this holiday! And it’s extremely important to make sure these decorations are securely and safely set up. Specifically, you should check that decorations don’t block entrances or exits; don’t create a hazard for anyone who may walk into them accidentally; and won’t create any problems for trick-or-treaters. A smart set-up will minimize the risk of falling or tripping on decorations, and will even include a path through your decor just for trick-or-treating guests. One final note: to be extra safe, if your set-up requires wires for any reason, you should always use duct tape to tape these potential trip-hazards to the ground!
- Skip the candles, if you can. It may not be easy to imagine Halloween without a flickering candle or two, but flames and young trick-or-treaters can unfortunately be a recipe for disaster. It just takes one excited child to accidentally knock over a candle, and a blaze could start surprisingly quickly - especially if your porch is covered in fake web or similar flammable decorations. Just as dangerous, the long fabric of a child’s costume could also ignite if it’s exposed to flames. We recommend skipping the candles, and going for glow sticks instead. Once set inside a jack-o’-lantern, glow sticks cast an eerie glow - much like candles - without posing a fire hazard. Or, if you’d rather buy something reusable, consider looking for fake battery-operated candles.
- Consider what you’re offering as a treat. Allergies can raise their ugly head in the wrong circumstances if children ingest an allergen by mistake. Many families know what kinds of mainstream candy their children can or cannot eat in advance, but it’s especially important for anyone who makes homemade treats to be very clear about any special ingredients in their snacks. On the flip side, you may also consider joining the Teal Pumpkin Project this season, as your participation could make a child’s night if they have to navigate their way around a food allergy this holiday.
- Don’t go rogue - follow the directions. Lights, carving tools, animatronic props…anything that you purchase for the holiday should come with a complete set of directions. Even the most experienced decorators should take five minutes to review these decorations. Doing so will ensure that you don’t make a risky and unsafe mistake, such as accidentally using indoor lights outside - which can be dangerous, particularly in wet weather.
Halloween is a joyous night for many parents and children alike. By taking steps to map out your decorations and costume ideas now, you’ll be able to work during the next 30 days to make the holiday all the more joyous, safe, and healthy for family, friends, and local children alike. So be sure to keep our tips in mind as you begin to prepare for a wonderful All Hallows' Eve!