Have a Safe (and Sane) Halloween!
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Several years ago I purchased a group of Character Culture Citizenship Guides, small posters that were published in the 1930s and 1940s to be displayed in schools to promote good behavior and health. One of the posters is “A Sane Halloween” by Elise Reid Boylston. I have always thought that the title of the poster should have been “A Safe Halloween”. When you think about it, the word sane covers a lot of ground. It encompasses not just being safe but may also be referring to not eating too much candy or not damaging property or not scaring young children, and so on. It may not surprise you to hear that October is Halloween Safety Month. Halloween is fun but also brings safety risks. Kids are twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween as they are other nights of the year. Burns and cuts also are common on Halloween, and then there can be choking hazards caused by candy. With Halloween coming up this Sunday, here are some ideas about keeping safe and sane, while still enjoying yourself.
- Keep it bright. Choose bright colors, flame-retardant materials, and reflective tape on costumes and treat bags. Give children glow sticks, necklaces, or bracelets.
- Size it right. If it’s chilly outdoors, make sure your child’s costume is loose enough for warm clothing to be worn underneath — but not long enough to cause tripping.
- Limit accessories. Pointed props — such as wands, swords, and knives — might pose safety hazards.
- Not just for kids. Dress up and accompany trick-or-treaters younger than age 12. Pin a piece of paper with your child’s name, address, and phone number inside your child’s pocket in case you get separated. Encourage older kids to trick or treat with friends, parents, or older siblings. Make sure someone in the group has a flashlight with fresh batteries.
- Set ground rules. If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, plan a familiar route and set a curfew. Review safety rules, including staying with the group, walking only on the sidewalk, approaching only clearly lit homes, and never going inside a home or car for a treat. Have your child carry a cellphone if appropriate.
- Inspect treats before eating. Don’t let your child snack while he or she is trick-or-treating. Feed your child an early meal before heading out and inspect the treats before your child eats them. Discard anything that’s not sealed, has torn packaging, or looks questionable. If you have young children, weed out gum, peanuts, hard candies, and other choking hazards. If your child has food allergies, check candy labels carefully.
- Ration. If your child collects lots of goodies, consider doling out a few pieces at a time. You might ask your child if he or she would like to swap some — or all — of the candy for something else, such as a toy, book, or outing. Some organizations/dental offices have candy buybacks so kids can get money for their donated Halloween candy.
Make it safe for trick-or-treaters at your home
- Clean up. Put away tripping hazards, such as garden hoses, toys, and bikes. Clear leaves, snow, or other debris from the sidewalk.
- Turn the lights on. Replace burned-out bulbs to ensure visibility at the walkway and front door. If you don’t want visitors on Halloween, leave any outside lights off. Because I am not a Halloween fan, I leave all the lights off in my house and watch TV or read using my Kindle.
- Control your pets. Take no chances that your pet might be frightened and chase or bite a child at your door.
- Consider candy substitutes. Instead of handing out sweets, try stickers, fun pencils, rubber insects, toothbrushes, or colored chalk.
COVID-19 and Halloween
- Consider alternatives to trick or treating. COVID-19 spread is less likely to occur outdoors. Consider visiting an apple orchard, corn maze, or a pumpkin patch instead of going door-to-door. Have a costumed movie night with your family. Participate in Trunk or Treat at the Bethel parking lot on Saturday, October 30 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
- Avoid high-risk activities. Stay away from any indoor, crowded setting like an indoor Halloween party. Be wary of activities where you have lots of young kids who are likely unvaccinated.
- Mask up. We have been wearing face masks for months. Now is the time to get creative and decorate them for Halloween. Look for Halloween cloth masks or put Halloween stickers on a disposable mask. Maybe everyone should be a surgeon or a nurse this year! Do not draw or paint on a disposable mask— this may diminish the effectiveness of the mask and some paints or markers may be toxic. Do not wear a costume mask over a face mask.
- Stay outside. If you give out treats, consider sitting outside and lining up individually prepackaged goodies on a table for children to take.
- Wash your hands. Both kids and adults should wash their hands frequently after trick-or-treating and other activities.
- Use caution if driving. If you are driving, remember that kids tend to dart across streets, and generally aren’t paying as much attention to their surroundings as we hope. Slow down and stay alert for little ghosts, goblins, and princesses. Discourage new, inexperienced drivers from driving on Halloween.
- Party on! If you attend or host a Halloween party where alcohol is served, designate a sober driver or arrange for other transportation. Consider having your party outdoors—weather permitting, of course.
- Take care with candles. Do not leave lit candles unattended. Use battery-operated candles instead.
Enjoy Halloween this year!
Be well and have a safe and sane Halloween.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Halloween & COVID-19: have fun while staying safe. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Halloween-COVID-Safety-Tips.aspx
National Safety Council. (n.d.). Simple steps for an extra safe Halloween. Retrieved from: https://www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics/seasonal-safety/autumn-safety/halloween