Children's Health

Keep Ghosts and Goblins Safe this Halloween

While trick-or-treating may not occur until the end of the month, it’s not too early to prepare. To ensure the holiday is safe and enjoyable, Melinda Howard, injury prevention specialist with the Greater Grand Rapids Safe Kids Coalition at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, encourages parents and children to plan for the big day.

“Trick-or-treating, dressing up in costumes and parties bring a lot of enjoyment to a child’s life but all the excitement doesn’t come without potential risks,” said Howard. “Parents should be involved in their child’s trick-or-treating experience from start-to-finish to minimize dangers. From costume selection to candy choices, parental involvement is an important part of the day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following Halloween safety tips:

All Dressed Up

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Masks can limit or block eyesight, so 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 with a label clearly indicating they 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 stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency or become lost.

Pumpkin Carving Safety

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

Home Safe Home

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

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Remind children to:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.’
    • Only go to homes with a porch light on.’
    • 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 alley.
    • Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.’
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks.
    • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters.’

Making it a Healthy Halloween

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on too many treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or 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.
  • Ration treats for the days following Halloween and don’t allow children to overindulge.

“Preparation and supervision are vital to a safe trick-or-treating experience for children,” added Howard. “Although safety is important every day of the year, Halloween presents an opportunity for parents to be extra vigilant.”

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 7,500 inpatients and 150,000 outpatients annually. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and their families with compassion, excellence and innovation.