What's Really Scary about Halloween

Eating too much candy is just one of many health hazards that kids face on Halloween, says the AAP, which offers a list of safety tips for parents.

Earlier this year, findings from a nine-year study showed that Halloween is one of the three holidays that produce the most emergency room visits for children and adolescents.

In the study, analyses of data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System showed that for children age 19 years and younger, the greatest number of holiday-related injuries were sustained on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Halloween, with the most common diagnoses being lacerations, contusion/abrasions, fractures, and sprain/strains.

Lead researcher Anthony D’Ippolitoa and colleagues found that around 5.7 million holiday-related injuries occurred between 1997 through 2006, according to the study, which is published in Pediatrics. They also found that:

  • Finger/hand injuries accounted for the greatest proportion of injuries on Halloween (17.6%)
  • Of the finger/hand injuries sustained on Halloween, 33.3% were lacerations and 20.1% were fractures
  • Children ages 10-14 sustained the greatest proportion of injuries (30.3%)

“Parents should be aware that holidays present a risk not only for holiday-specific injuries but also for more general, ‘everyday’ injuries,” said the authors.

And how can parents do that? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to help make Halloween a safe and fun holiday.

Dressing in costumes:

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective, and make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

Pumpkin carving:

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Trick-or-Treating:

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, always remind Trick-or Treaters to:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks. Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don't assume the right of way on the road
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

For a complete list of the AAP Halloween safety tips, click here.