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Monday, October 27, 2008

Tips for a Safe Halloween

As a pediatrician, I should probably not admit that I have a nearly insatiable sweet tooth and so, of course, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. What could be better than perfect strangers giving you candy? You chat and catch up with all your neighbors as they make the Halloween rounds and the children all have a great time dressing up. What fun! In order to keep it a fun holiday, there are a few things parents should keep in mind.

Most people think that the biggest danger for a child on Halloween is eating candy that has been tampered with. However, the chance of being hit by a car is far greater. Unfortunately, according to the Center for Disease Control, children are 4 times more likely to be hit by a car and die on Halloween than any other night of the year. This statistic underscores the importance of Halloween safety.

An adult should always accompany small children when trick or treating. Before going out, remind children that they should always look both ways before crossing the street and should never run out between parked cars. Consider adding reflective tape either to children's costumes or to their goodie bags to make them more visible to motorists. Check to make sure that children can easily see through any masks they are wearing and if vision is limited consider using face paint instead.

If children are going trick or treating without an adult, such as on their walk home from school, reiterate that they should never enter a home or car for a treat. Although tampering with candy is very rare, remind children that any candy not in wrappers should be thrown out and not eaten.

Discuss with teenagers the difference between "tricks" and vandalism. Toilet papering a friend's car may be harmless but smashing someone's pumpkins or writing mean things on their lawns is not. Let them know that if their friends seem to be getting out of control, or doing things that they are uncomfortable with, they can always call you. This is a good time to remind them that they should never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs, and that you would rather have to come and pick them up than have them ride with an unsafe driver.

These are all important discussions to have with your children and Halloween provides an opening to have them. So use the opportunity to discuss age appropriate safety topics such as street safety, stranger safety, or drinking and driving. But most importantly have a Happy and Safe Halloween!