3 children on Halloween night

When it comes to Halloween, getting “scared” is part of the fun of ghosts and goblins, pumpkin-carving, spooky costumes, and trick-or-treating.

But “scary” doesn’t mean sacrificing safety. Pam Hoogerwerf, director of community outreach and injury prevention at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, offers these tips on how to keep your kids safe this Halloween.

What is the No. 1 issue when it comes to keeping children safe on Halloween?
Pedestrian safety. Halloween and trick-or-treating involves large numbers of children out on the streets after dark. The excitement of the evening can contribute to kids not paying attention to rules about crossing the street. For parents, Halloween is a perfect time for parents to remind their children to follow all crosswalk signals and always look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.

What can drivers do to prevent pedestrian injuries on Halloween?
Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Enter and exit driveways slowly and carefully.

At what age is it OK for children to trick or treat without an adult?
Children younger than age 12 should not be out at night without adult supervision. Pin a piece of paper with your child’s name, address, and phone number inside your child’s costume in case you get separated. Kids age 12 and older who are mature enough to be out after dark without parental supervision should trick or treat in groups and stick to familiar neighborhood areas. Trick or treat only at homes with turned-on porch lights, and never enter a home for a treat. Make sure someone carries a flashlight with fresh batteries.

What’s the best way to keep Halloween costumes safe?
Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape. Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision. If your child is wearing make-up as part of their costume, make sure to test it on a small area of their skin before applying on other areas of their body. Remove all make-up before bedtime to avoid possible skin and eye irritation. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers. Make sure your child’s costume fits properly to prevent trips and falls. If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long.

What about pumpkins?
Never allow small children to carve a pumpkin with a knife or other sharp tool. Purchase a separate smaller pumpkin for younger children and allow them to draw on the pumpkin with child-friendly markers. For pumpkins that are carved, use a flashlight or a glow stick instead of a candle to light the pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest. Never leave a lit pumpkin unattended. 

What safety steps can be taken around the home before trick-or-treaters arrive?
Remove any items from the sidewalk or porch that could pose a trip hazard for children. Also, restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite visitors. Make sure jack-o-lanterns are placed away from doorways, landings, or stairs to avoid fire hazards.

What’s the best way to handle candy and other goodies from trick-or-treating?
To avoid the temptation of having some snacks while trick-or-treating, provide a healthy snack before they head out for the night’s events. Wait until your kids are home before sorting and checking treats. Look through all candy for any signs of tampering and check for toys that are not appropriate for certain ages. Also, try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween.