Children's Health

Keep Children Safe While Trick-or-Treating

Super heroes and princesses are just a few weeks away from making their Halloween debut. As children dream of creating the perfect costume, carving the best pumpkin and bringing home a stash of candy, experts at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital urge parents to keep their kids safe.

“Halloween is an exciting time for children and parents alike,” said Melinda Howard, injury prevention specialist, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and program manager, Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids. “It’s important to remember basic safety guidelines to ensure a safe experience for everyone involved.”

Howard and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the following guidelines to protect their trick-or-treaters:

Keeping the Costume Safe

  • Plan bright and reflective costumes. Make sure shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping.
  • Add reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for increased visibility.
  • Masks can limit or block eyesight. Consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • Purchase costumes, wigs and accessories that are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he or she trips.
  • Purchase new batteries for flashlights for all children and their escorts.
  • Above all, dress for the weather. Michigan weather changes rapidly.

Pumpkin Safety

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Parents can then do the cutting.
  • Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Welcoming Guests

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations from the porch and front yard.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

Gathering the Treats

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to parents. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Teach children to only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children. To prevent injury, encourage the following:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    • Carry a cell phone for quick communication in an emergency. Don’t text message while trick-or-treating or walking.
    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks. Never cross between parked cars
    • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing children. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will follow suit.

Keeping it Healthy

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. A responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Ensure children consume only age appropriate treats. Be aware small candy may pose a choking hazard.
  • Help children understand the benefit of rationing treats for the days following Halloween. It’s not only healthier but it will make the fun last even longer.

“Advanced costume planning, supervision while carving pumpkins and restraint from eating the whole bucket of candy in one night can go a long way,” added Howard. “Most importantly, children should not go between cars or down alley ways. Children and vehicle accidents are the most common injury but also the most avoidable.”

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a member of Spectrum Health, is a Grand Rapids-based hospital serving children throughout Michigan . A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians with specialized training in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties.