Halloween is just around the corner. Once again, Americans are looking forward to celebrating with trick or treating and parties with plenty of candy, homemade treats, costumes, decorations, and drinks. Unfortunately, the night often includes health hazards, which can be serious, and even deadly at times.
Halloween is an exciting night for both children and adults alike, but it is associated with many health hazards.
Fire hazards are common, and so are injuries related to sharp accessories and pumpkin carving.
Deadly car accidents during Halloween night claim more children’s lives than any other day of the year.
Many of these health hazards can be prevented.
Safe Halloween costumes and decorations
Fire hazards are common at Halloween, as many people use candles to decorate their homes. In addition, children are at risk of trips and fall because they wear costumes, and Halloween parties continue when it is dark outside. Consider the following tips:
- Wear costumes, wigs, and accessories labeled “flame resistant.” If parents decide to make the costume, they should choose flame-resistant polyester or nylon, or other flame-resistant fabrics.
- Avoid dark costumes and instead choose light colors, reflective costumes to increase visibility. Alternatively, add reflective tape or strips or give the child glow sticks.
- Choose costumes that are not too wide or long to avoid tripping.
- Hats and makeup are safer than masks as they do not obscure the vision.
- If using makeup, test a small area of the skin to see if any allergic reaction develops. Remove all makeup before going to bed to avoid skin irritation.
- Decorative contact lenses have become popular in recent years. However, these lenses can cause injuries unless they are properly fitted by an eye specialist.
When it comes to Halloween decorations, many enjoy a smoke machine or a scary low-lying fog. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a key ingredient in producing smoke and fog, but it can become dangerous if the machine is not handled properly. To ensure safety, CO2 has to be cooled to freeze into dry ice, and gloves or tongs should be used when handling dry ice. A handheld CO2 monitor can help detect if dangerous CO2 levels are present in enclosed spaces. Closely follow the instructions for smoke machine use. Make sure the machine is plugged into an appropriate, dry electrical outlet or extension cord that is dry in good working condition.
Injuries from knives and sharp objects
Many Halloween costumes come with accessories like knives, swords, sticks, arrows, or spears. Children play, run, and often trip. These pointy objects can easily cause injuries to those who wear them or to other children. It is best to buy costumes without pointy or sharp accessories or buy a softer version of them.
The real, sharp knives used in the kitchen for pumpkin carving cause many injuries during the Halloween season. Adults should not allow young children to carve pumpkins and make sure the knives are kept safe and out of reach. Special tools and kits using smaller knives are now available and safer to use.
Food allergies and dietary restrictions
An estimated 8% of American children have food allergies, which can cause severe reactions, including anaphylactic shock. Children with allergies and their parents need to be extremely cautious, as Halloween treats contain top common allergens like milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, nuts, and soy. Other foods may be dangerous due to cross-contamination.
A simple way to avoid exposing a child to food allergies or other dietary restrictions is to give away other items like glow sticks, markers, or stickers.
Be aware of deadly car accidents
According to data from 1990–2010, analyzed by State Farm, from 1990-2010, children were two times more likely to die on Halloween than any other day of the year, as they go trick-or-treating on the streets. Most of the accidents occurred between 5:00–9:00 pm, and away from an intersection or crosswalk. Children between 12–15 and 5–8 years of age were the most likely to be fatally injured. The greatest risk comes from young drivers, aged 15–25, while older drivers posed the lowest risk. Although the number of fatalities has declined in recent years, parents and children need to be extra cautious. Pedestrians should always walk on a sidewalk if it is available and use crosswalks and in all cases follow traffic safety rules. Children, especially kids under age, should find a buddy to walk with, rather than walking alone.
Safety tips for drivers:
- Keep in mind you will see more pedestrians on the road and in unexpected places on the streets. Drive slowly and scan the road.
- Keep your attention on the road. Do not use cell phones and avoid any distractions.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages or consume substances that can impair your driving skills.
- If you see a drunk driver, call law enforcement right away.
More tips for parents
Here are some additional things to consider to remain safe during Halloween:
- Accompany your young children when they go trick or treating. Older children can go alone, but it is best to plan and review a route with them before Halloween night.
- Set up a specific time to go out and return time when kids should be at home.
- Instruct your children to not enter the homes or cars of strangers.
- Although the treats may look tempting, children should wait and eat them after they return home.
- New foods can cause digestive issues like stomach upset or diarrhea.
- Mild indigestion can be treated with home remedies such as ginger or peppermint tea, but seek medical advice if severe vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or extreme abdominal pain and cramps develop.
There are many health hazards associated with Halloween parties, ranging from costumes that can catch fire, sharp objects that can cause injuries, food allergies, and deadly car accidents. It is important to remember that Halloween night can be an exciting, but stressful experience for children and parents alike. Crowded spaces and big parties with unfamiliar faces in costumes and masks can become stressful. Planning and knowing how to handle potential safety hazards can help keep Halloween night stress free and safe.