Halloween has finally arrived, and your little monsters have been planning their costumes for months. But before the trick-or-treating commences, you need to take a few safety precautions. Why? “Halloween ranks right up there next to New Year’s Eve and July Fourth as the holiday that results in the most injuries,” says Dr. Steven Kairys, Medical Director at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune. For a parent, that statistic is more terrifying than any ghoul, goblin or Donald Trump costume.
Here are 10 ways to drastically reduce your kids’ odds of ending up in the ER on Halloween — and to make sure that the only scares they experience are the safe kind.
DO put reflective tape on the back of your child’s costume.
A frightening fact: “Halloween is the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians,” says Kairys. Little ones can unexpectedly dart into the street, but even older kids who are trick-or-treating on their own, without a parent’s watchful eye, are even more vulnerable to this kind of danger. Double-down on safety with a few costume tweaks that your kids will barely notice: Reflective or glow-in-the-dark tape, glow necklaces, light-up accessories and flashlights all increase the likelihood that drivers will see your kids in the dark.
DON’T assume that older kids will be safe in a big group.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 10 and 14 incur the most injuries. Perhaps not surprisingly, boys are two thirds more likely than girls to get hurt. Kairys theorizes that this is because when teens and tweens are in unsupervised herds, they tend to be rambunctious and take more risks. What to do? Sit them down and talk about potential dangers before sending them out on their own. “About a third of parents talk to their kids about safety [on Halloween], but that’s only a third,” says Kairys. “That’s a lot of parents not talking to their kids about safety. They need to be very clear about the issues.”
DO hem costumes.
Kids are klutzy on a regular day. On Halloween, when they’re in outfits that are too long and don’t fit properly, the odds of a wipe-out increase exponentially. In fact, broken bones and lacerations are a top reason for trips to the ER on Halloween. So pull out that sewing kit and do the necessary nips and tucks to avoid unnecessary trips and falls.
DON’T allow your child to carry sharp objects.
This seems like common sense, right? Wrong. “On Halloween, all bets are off,” says Kairys. “I see a lot of parents who are usually very careful and conscious about this, but on Halloween, they do things in the rush to make their kids happy.” To protect kids’ eyes, in particular, make sure that lightsabers, swords and the like don’t have sharp edges. And ideally, younger kids should only carry props made from soft materials.
DO avoid costumes with masks when possible.
Aside from giving adults the creeps, masks can obscure a child’s vision, leading to bumps and falls. If there’s a way to maintain the integrity of the costume without a mask — say, with some fancy makeup application — opt for that instead.
DON’T confuse flame-resistant with fire-proof.
Nylon and polyester are safer, flame-resistant choices, but they can still catch fire. Minimize the potential dangers of burns by avoiding costumes with baggy sleeves or wide skirts, and remind your children to keep a safe distance from lit jack o’lanterns and decorative candles.
DO be wary of homes with dogs.
Even the sweetest, most mild-mannered pup can get freaked out on Halloween. After all, a small child might be delighted that his overenthusiastic “Boo!” makes a dog bark, but the dog might not be quite as amused and return that enthusiasm with a bite. This is one of those issues, says Kairys, that you should talk about with your kids before heading out: “Say, ‘If you go up to a strange house and the dog starts barking, that’s a good time to step back.'”
DON’T rely on older siblings to watch younger ones.
Yes, brothers and sisters can look out for one another, but that shouldn’t be a substitute for parental supervision for kids under the age of 12. As Kairys rightly points out: “A 5-year-old going out with a 9-year-old brother … I don’t think that’s the kind of safety that a family should be looking for.” Bottom line: Your 9-year-old may be responsible — but only up until a point.
DO continue to be vigilant about food allergies.
The good news, according to Kairys: “Most parents are very aware of their kids’ allergies, and the kids are very aware of it, too, so they’re careful to inspect every little thing. You’ll see some of it [in the ER] on Halloween, but I don’t think it’s any worse than going to a school party.” The even better news? Families are taking part in the Teal Pumpkin Project, an initiative to bring awareness to food allergies and provide trick-or-treaters with alternative, candy-free treats — like stickers, bouncy balls or bubbles — so kids with allergies don’t feel left out of the fun. If you see a pumpkin painted teal on a doorstep, you’re good to go!
DON’T leave Halloween bags unattended around younger siblings.
Toddlers and crawling babies are sneaky and lightning-fast when they want something. The something in question on October 31st? All of the potential choking hazards (aka, small candies) in those Halloween buckets. Keep candy out of reach, but also make sure to have age-appropriate treats and toys on hand to keep them happily occupied.
About the author: Dawn Yanek is a pop-culture and parenting expert, and the founder of Momsanity.com. She has worked as an on-air spokesperson for Life & Style Weekly and Match.com, a contributor for ESPN2’s Cold Pizza and a relationships columnist for Stuff magazine. Her writing on parenting has also been featured on What the Flicka? and BonBon Break. She is the proud mother of two adorable kids and one crazy Pomapoo, all of whom share her obsessive love of ’80s music.
First Body Image: © Christin Lola / Dollar Photo Club; Second Body Image: © Verkoka / Dollar Photo Club