It's fun and, next to Christmas, it is one of the most exciting holidays for children.
But Halloween, which falls this year on a Monday, is also a dangerous time and — in many instances — can be fatal.
"Children 15 and under are four times more likely to be killed than at any other time of the year," said Beverly Losman, manager of Injury Prevention at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and director of Safe Kids Georgia, a statewide network of health educators who work to prevent unintentional injury. "They are running to and fro, they fall, and drivers often do not see them."
Losman said parents should watch out for tainted candy, be weary of potentially hazardous costumes and take precautions to make sure their child is visible, especially to drivers.
"We recommend reflective tape either to their costume or Halloween bag," she said.
Home safety, driver safety and pedestrian safety, Losman said, are all key to having a fun and safe Halloween.
While parents are implementing the safety tips, experts suggest that they have a game plan to keep kids healthy as well — especially because childhood obesity is a growing concern.
"No one wants to take the fun out of trick-or-treating, so children should be allowed to have some treats," Losman said. "But it's always a good idea to plan ahead and provide sweets in moderation."
Avoid costumes with excessive 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 costumes fit properly. Oversize costumes and footwear, such as clown or adult shoes, can cause a child to trip and fall. Avoid wearing hats that can slide over the eyes.
Accessorize with flexible props, such as rubber swords or knives. Inflexible ones can cause serious injury in case of a fall.
Apply only nontoxic and hypoallergenic paint or cosmetics to the face. If a mask is worn, be certain it fits securely and cut eye holes large enough for full vision.
If possible, choose brightly colored costumes that drivers can spot easily.
Always supervise children younger than 13 and attach their name, address and phone number (including area code) to their clothes in case they get separated from adults. Older children should trick-or-treat in a group, and a curfew should be established. Have each child carry a cell phone or some loose change in case they get lost or need to call home.
Children should go only to well-lit houses and remain on the porch within street view. Teach your child to cross the street at crosswalks or intersections; never cross between parked cars and always look both ways before crossing. Remind your child to stay on the sidewalk, if possible, and to walk facing traffic. Use flashlights when trick-or-treating in the dark.
Remind your child not to eat any treats before you've had 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.
Provide a nutritious meal that includes fruits and vegetables before going to gather candy. This will lower your child's appetite for sweets.
Call around the neighborhood and aim for neighbors who will be giving out non-food items such as pencils, erasers and safe child toys.
Separate candy as soon as you return home and take out what you will allow your child to eat in a week or two and share the rest with other kids in the neighborhood or kids who may not have participated in the festivities.
Allow the child to eat things such as chocolate and hard candies versus chewy and gummy foods because they are easier to brush off the teeth.
Provide water with snacks and candies as well as set aside time to be active to help burn the extra calories consumed.
Source: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
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