Trick or Treat

Any night involving costumes and bags of candy is always going to be a hit. Every October 31st, kids head out in droves, filling neighborhood streets with little ghosts and goblins going door-to-door in search of treats.

But as fun as it is, Halloween does come with some risks (aside from tooth decay). After all, it's a night when kids are out after dark, crossing neighbourhood streets at will, wearing questionable outfits and one where dealing with strangers with candy is actually OK for once. That's no reason to abandon the fun, though. A little knowledge and some forethought can make for a safe Halloween for everyone.

Here are some tips that can help:

Costumes

Safety experts generally agree that makeup is preferred over masks for the big night. Masks restrict a child’s vision, making it difficult to see what’s around them, including cars. There are plenty of non-toxic products on the market now that let you replicate the desired costume effect. Be sure to test the makeup in a small area beforehand for any potential skin or eye irritations.

It can be pretty frosty by the time we get to the end of October, so be sure that costumes have enough room for a few warm layers underneath. Also try and avoid anything that hangs too low and might cause a tripping hazard.

Ideally, any costume accessories like swords, canes or pitchforks, should be made of softer, flexible material to further reduce the risk of injury.

You can lower the risk of serious eye injury by avoiding decorative contact lenses.

As a back-up in case a child gets lost, try putting their name, address and phone number somewhere on the inside of their costume (and tell them where it is).

To increase the visibility of trick-or-treaters, use brighter colours for costumes where possible. Reflective tape, glowing accessories or treat bags can also help.

Trick or Treating

Try and start the evening early so that little ones aren’t out too late.

Avoid trick-or-treating alone. It’s always a good plan to walk in groups or with a trusted adult. Generally, children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision.

Establish a planned route beforehand and stick to familiar neighbourhoods and well-lit areas.

Although we loosen the restrictions somewhat on talking to strangers on Halloween night, be sure to remind children never to enter a stranger’s home for treats and to never accept a ride in a stranger’s car.

When kids do go out in a group on their own, set a curfew and provide them with a flashlight and a cell phone for additional safety.

For adults, keep a running headcount of those in your care and pick a familiar, well-lit landmark as a meeting point in the event that someone does get lost.

When dealing with the spoils of the evening’s adventure, there are a few things to remember before you let the kids dive in:

  • Although it’s tough, children should avoid eating anything until they get home
  • An adult should closely inspect everything in the treat bag
  • Dispose of any unwrapped candy, anything with signs of tampering, fresh fruit or home baked goods
  • Watch for anything that could create an allergic reaction or pose a choking hazard for smaller kids
  • Try and set a reasonable amount for kids to eat that night and for the following days and weeks

Road Safety

Supervised or not, children are much more likely to be struck by a car on Halloween night than any other. Drivers need to be extra diligent, especially during the peak trick-or-treating hours between 5:30pm and 9:30pm.

Remember that children on Halloween night are likely to be excited, distracted and may not be paying full attention to cars on the road. For drivers, treat neighbourhoods like one giant school zone and try to anticipate any unpredictable behaviour by those going door-to-door.

As mentioned previously, try to increase the visibility of trick-or-treaters with bright costume colours or reflective tape. Glow sticks and flashlights can also help.

Be sure to follow basic road safety rules for pedestrians:

  • Use sidewalks where available
  • Where no sidewalks exist, walk on the side of the road facing traffic
  • Cross the street at corners or at established crosswalks only – no criss-crossing
  • Look both ways before crossing
  • Never step out onto the road from between parked cars

Around the Home

Adding spooky effects like smoke machines, lights, audio and animated characters is cool, but be sure to secure extension cords to avoid trips and falls. Also don’t overload your circuits and check the CSA standards if you plan on burying anything.

Carving jack-o’-lanterns is a long-standing Halloween tradition. To be safe though, have kids draw the design on the pumpkin with a marker and leave the knife work to Mom or Dad.

Speaking of pumpkins, never leave one with a lit candle in it unattended, to reduce the risk of an accident. Make sure that kid’s costumes are fire resistant or you could use a small battery-powered light inside instead of a candle.

Be sure that walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of any obstacles that could result in falls. Sweeping-up any wet leaves on your walkway also helps.

Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween, but not when it comes to the safety of your kids. Just apply a little precaution and common sense and you’ll be good to go.

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