Halloween can be scary, especially for little ones.
It’s not the ghouls and ghosts children should be afraid of, though – it’s motor vehicles, fire, unsafe food, and decorative contact lenses.
Halloween is the third deadliest day of the year for pedestrians. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
“Combine children walking after dark, candy, vision-compromising costumes, and adult partygoers on the road and you have a recipe for disaster,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “Children are safer the more visible they are. There are many easy and inexpensive ways for parents to make sure that Halloween costumes are both easy for drivers to see at a distance and easy for children to see out of.”
Children are naturally at risk, due to their short stature and questionable decision making when it comes to crossing streets.
That’s why it’s important for parents to walk their children door-to-door, going only to safe places, AAA says. Trick or treaters should walk on sidewalks, or facing traffic if no sidewalks are available. Flashlights improve safety, too.
Costume choice is also important: light-colored costumes with reflective materials can boost visibility to drivers, while masks – which limit children’s vision of vehicles – should be avoided. Well-fitting costumes can reduce trips and falls.
Motorists are advised to do their own part to contribute to safety, by slowing down to a speed approximately 5 mph slower than the posted speed limit. Drivers should also be vigilant for children, who may dart about.
Costumes can also present a major fire threat, given the abundant candles this time of year. All costumes should be made from flame-resistant or fire-retardant materials, like polyester or nylon.
Some costume makeup can cause allergic reactions. Before painting a full face, test a small amount on an arm in advance, and look for signs of rash, redness, swelling, or irritation.
And decorative contact lenses can be spooky, making eyes look like “cat eyes” or glow in the dark. But they can also cause lasting eye damage, if not prescribed by an eye care professional.
"Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories," said U.S Food and Drug Administration eye expert Bernard Lepri. "What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care.”
Decorative contact lenses can create corneal ulcers, corneal abrasion, vision impairment, and even permanent blindness.
As for those treats, the urban legends of poisoned chocolates are just that – urban legends. Only one confirmed incident of deliberate Halloween candy poisoning has occurred, according to urban legend experts Snopes, when a father intentionally murdered his child in 1974.
But the FDA still recommends parents inspect the contents of children’s goody bags, ensuring that candy hasn’t been tampered with. Children should not eat or accept any candy which is not commercially wrapped, the FDA says.
Children should also be careful of candy which could present a choking hazard, like gum, peanuts, or hard candies.
The FDA advises food safety at Halloween parties by only drinking pasteurized cider and juice, not eating raw cookie dough or cake batter, and ensuring that apples are thoroughly cleaned before bobbing for apples.