Trick or treat! Sometimes the real trick and the treat is to not end up with a trip to urgent care or the emergency room on Halloween night.
Halloween comes with its own set of scares, from flaming pumpkins to kids roaming dark streets to stomachs upset from too much candy.
We asked Dr. Lisa Gaw, a pediatrician and regional physician lead at Texas Children’s Urgent Care, for her safety tips as well as gathered tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Safety Council.
One of the biggest dangers of Halloween is kids being hit by a car. In fact, kids are twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, Safe Kids Worldwide found.
Prevent car accidents by teaching these things:
Look both ways when crossing the street. Vocalize what you are doing so it becomes a teaching moment.
Use crosswalks if you have them or go to an intersection to cross the street.
Do not cross the street between parked cars because people in other cars can’t see you.
Stay on sidewalks if you’ve got them or hug the side of the road if you don’t, and walk facing traffic.
Use a front walk to get to the front door instead of the driveway if that’s an option.
Walk, don’t run, from house to house.
Stay off electronic devices like phones when walking, and that includes adults, too.
Increase your magic power of visibility:
Use a flashlight with fresh batteries. You can see where you are going to avoid tripping over something, and cars can see your flashlight.
Add reflective tape to dark costumes on the back, legs and arms, and to your candy bag.
Have kids wear glow bracelets or necklaces if they are old enough to not put them in their mouths.
Only go to houses or areas that are well-lighted.
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Plan ahead for smooth trick-or-treating:
Determine what your route will be, especially for teens who might be trick-or-treating without an adult.
Go as a group, especially teens.
If you do go as a group of parents and kids, assign which kid is being watched by which adult to avoid parents thinking that someone else was watching one of the kids.
Have a couple of predetermined meeting spots along the route if someone gets lost.
Have predetermined check-in times and a strict end time for teens.
Have a charged cellphone and know who you will call in an emergency. Make sure all children have that number on them, and not just in the phone, in case they lose the phone or get separated from the phone.
Help kids practice remembering your address.
Remind kids not to go into houses or get into any car.
Avoid costume nightmares:
Try on costumes a couple of days before to make sure they fit and are comfortable.
Look for costumes that are flame resistant. It will say so on the label.
Avoid masks if you can. If the face is part of the costume, use nontoxic makeup instead or make sure the mask you do have has large eyeholes that don’t block a child’s front or side vision. If they insist on the mask, plan to take the mask off when crossing the street.
Avoid wigs that slip down and cover eyes. Wigs should also be fire resistant.
Avoid cosmetic contact lenses.
Avoid tripping hazards. Use safety pins or duct tape to hem the bottoms of costumes if you don’t sew.
Plan for all weather. We have been unlucky in recent years with heavy rain on Halloween. We’ve also had years when it’s been hot at night and years when it’s been cold. If we have a wet Halloween, what weather-proofing adjustments will need to be made to the costume? If it’s cold, are there layers you can add? If it’s hot, can they wear it and not overheat?
Check the accessories. Is that sword blunt? Does that toy gun not look like the real thing? Is anything sharp that could cut someone?
Using makeup? Make sure that the ingredients are listed and they are things you understand. Avoid makeup that has ingredients in a foreign language. Test a small amount of makeup on the back of the hand or arm to make sure kids are not allergic to it before putting it on their face or the rest of their body. Remove all makeup before going to bed.
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Make a safer jack-o’-lantern:
Let kids draw or paint on pumpkins instead of carving them. If they must carve them, make sure they do so with adult supervision.
Use glow sticks or battery-operated candles rather than real candles to avoid fire hazards.
Place jack-o’-lanterns away from walkways so no one can trip over them.
Teach kids not to touch the pumpkins because of the fire hazard.
Take the regret out of Halloween candy:
Inspect all candy before anyone eats it. Look for holes in the wrappers or open wrappers. Throw those pieces out. Also throw out candy brands you don’t recognize and anything homemade.
If you have kids with allergies, try to teach them which candies they can have and which ones they cannot. If the allergy is severe enough, remember that you don’t know what other types of candy that piece of candy came in contact with. You might want to avoid all candy treats and only pick up non-candy offerings or have them turn in their candy for a different prize. Find a list of houses that will be offering non-candy treats on foodallergy.org’s Teal Pumpkin Project site, and add your house if you plan on doing so.
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Predetermine how many pieces of candy will be consumed on Halloween and how big these pieces can be. Set limits for the rest of the month as well.
Dole out candy throughout the year. Use it in your holiday baking, in goody bags or piņatas for birthday parties and for other special occasions or moments.
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Consider donating some candy to places like Mobile Loaves and Fishes or using the Halloween Buy Back program that local dentists and orthodontists participate in. That candy goes to veterans.
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Start a new tradition of the Halloween Witch. She comes after a few days and replaces candy with a present. She’s hardly a witch.