The only fright you should experience this Halloween is from the little ghosts and goblins who shout, Trick or treat! when you open the front door. A safe Halloween is a fun Halloween, and two local experts offered some tips for making sure yours isn’t truly scary.
Kathe Russo, trauma coordinator at SSM DePaul Health Center, reminds parents that not all costumes are equally safe. “No masks!” she says emphatically. “Kids need to be able to see, and they can’t have their peripheral vision blocked. That makes it too easy for kids to run across a street and not see that there’s a car coming. Make-up is a much safer option.”
Costumes also should include some sort of reflective material, and kids should carry flashlights at all times. Fairy princesses’ skirts and superheroes’ capes should be short enough to protect against tripping.
“Every year, we see some injuries from kids being hit by cars, or kids with lacerations and broken bones due to tripping over hems or not seeing uneven pavements,” Russo says. “Adult supervision is important, even for older kids.”
Kids of all ages should practice safe trick-or-treating once they’re costumed and ready to roam the neighborhood. “First, only go to homes with a porch light on, and never enter a home or car for a treat,” advises Dr. Cole Condra, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor with Mercy Children’s Hospital.
Condra also recommends that parents review some basic safety rules with kids before venturing out: Stay in a group and on well-lit streets, always use the sidewalk or walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic if no sidewalk is available, never cut across yards or use alleys, only cross the street as a group using established crosswalks, never cross from between parked cars or out of driveways, and don't assume the right of way—motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters.
Most treats these days are pre-packaged, but parents should check over their children’s candy haul, discarding anything that’s been opened or looks like it could have been tampered with. Homemade treats should only be accepted from familiar, trusted friends and neighbors.
And don’t forget to display a smiling Jack-o-lantern—but only after it’s been decorated safely. “Don’t give a kid a knife and set him loose with a pumpkin,” Russo says. “Painting a pumpkin is just as fun for most kids, but if you really want to carve it consider using a pumpkin-carving kit that contains safer tools than kitchen knives. And use a flameless candle or other battery-powered light source inside it instead of a real candle, which is a fire hazard.”
A safe Halloween event instead of after-dark trick-or-treating may be the best way to celebrate. MercyKids is sponsoring Boo at the Zoo Spooky Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 26; and SSM DePaul Medical Center is hosting a Safe Kids Halloween Party from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 27. Both events allow kids to gather treats and enjoy a variety of Halloween activities in a safe environment.