As the sun goes down on Halloween night, and trick-or-treaters start roaming the streets of your neighborhood, there are several things to worry about as a parent or guardian. Halloween is a fun time for children, but it also is an important time to be extra vigilant for possible safety hazards-so that your children have a fun and safe Halloween.
Potentially hazardous costumes or accessories, tainted candy and crossing the street at night without supervision are only a few concerns that should be addressed prior to a child leaving the house.
Children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year. Falls are the leading cause of injuries among children on Halloween.
Beverly Losman, with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia, offers these tips to parents who want to make this a safe Halloween:
Avoid costumes with excessive flowing fabric, such as capes or sleeves. Loose clothing can easily brush up against a jack-o-lantern or other open flame, causing your child's costume to catch on fire.
Make sure your child's costume fits properly. Oversized costumes and footwear, such as clown or adult shoes, can cause your child to trip and fall, bringing them home with more scrapes and bruises than candy. Avoid wearing hats that will slide over their eyes.
Accessorize with flexible props, such as rubber swords or knives. Inflexible props can cause serious injury in case of a fall.
Apply face paint or cosmetics directly to the face, and make sure it is non-toxic and hypoallergenic. A loose-fitting mask can obstruct a child's vision. If a mask is worn, be certain it fits securely. Cut the eye holes large enough for full vision.
If possible, choose a brightly colored costume that drivers can spot easily. If not, decorate his costume with reflective tape and stickers.
Always supervise children under the age of 13. Older children should trick-or-treat in a group, and a curfew should be established for them. Attach the name, address and phone number (including area code) of children under age 13 to their clothes in case they get separated from adults. Have each child carry a cell phone or some loose change in case they need to call home or get lost.
Children should only go to well-lit houses and remain on the porch within street view. Teach your child to cross the street only at crosswalks or intersections. Make sure he understands never to cross between parked cars and to always look both ways before crossing. Remind your child to stay on the sidewalk, if possible, and to walk facing traffic. Children should walk, not run, and avoid using shortcuts across backyards or alleys. Use flashlights when trick-or-treating in the dark.
Remind your child not to eat any treats before you have a chance to examine them thoroughly for holes and punctures. Throw away all treats that are homemade or unwrapped. To help prevent your children from munching, give them a snack or light meal before they go trick-or-treating.
Parents of food-allergic children must read every candy label in their child's Halloween bag to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation for the child.
Many of us spend hours decorating the house and creating the perfect costume for a spooky Halloween, but the spookiest part of Halloween is not the scary costumes or the spider web on your front porch-it's the amount of fat, sugar and calories consumed by trick-or-treaters.
By visiting 15 houses, the average trick-or-treater can collect up to 60 pieces of "fun-size" candy on Halloween night. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta looked at the calories, fat and sugar content of a bag of typical Halloween treats and found it to be equivalent to 4,800 calories, one-and-a-half cups of fat and three cups of sugar.
"Allowing your child to consume three cups of sugar is like standing by and watching them eat 200 packets of sugar," said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of Child Wellness at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "Halloween and candy are synonymous, but it's important to provide sweets in moderation and focus on the fun and family time of the event-not the candy."
According to Dr. Walsh, candies with rich ingredients such as chocolate and peanut butter have the highest sugar and fat content. And many specialty Halloween candies, such as candy corn, contain unhealthy amounts of sugar if not consumed in moderation.
To combat obesity, Dr. Walsh offers several tips to help families have a fun and healthy Halloween:
The key word is moderation. Collect the Halloween candy from your kids after trick-or-treating and allow them to have one or two pieces per day.
Offer to "buy back" the candy from your kids in exchange for a small toy.
Provide plenty of water with the sweets, and set aside time to be active to help burn the extra calories consumed.
Provide a nutritious meal that includes fruits and vegetables before going to gather candy. This will lower your child's appetite for the sweets they are about to collect in the hours to come.
Distribute candy with lower sugar and fat content, such as Sweet Tarts, to trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has also released a video to reveal the truth about childhood obesity and the dangers of Halloween: http://youtu.be/KQurI0AjJxc.