Trick-or-Treating Safety 101
Dr. Eric Edmonds

All Hallows Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a festive and exciting time for many youngsters (and parents) to celebrate autumn with costumes, pumpkins, haunted houses and trick-or-treating.  Sugar rushes and nighttime adventures define October 31st for many people, but this combination can lead to injuries with spirit-dampening outcomes.  There are two major sources for bone and muscle injuries to children on Halloween:  costumes and pumpkins.

The combination of walking at dusk/night in sometimes unfamiliar areas plus costumes with strange shapes, funky sizing and headgear in the form of a mask can often result in tripping and falling.  Fortunately, most injuries come in the form of bumps and bruises, but sprains and broken bones may result. 

Parents can balance fun with safety by insuring that the costumes are well fitting. Hand-me-downs work, as long as they aren’t too long and cumbersome for the child to wear.  Shortening a hem can easily solve the problem (and can be undone the following year if needed).  Dark costumes should have reflective tape added to the costume in order to improve their visibility to drivers, or brigh- colored costume choices can make the kids easier to see on the side of the road. Both children and parents should carry flashlights.  Keep in mind that masks and large hats can obstruct your child’s eyes and limit their vision. A child-friendly makeup can serve a similar purpose without the obstruction risk. 

Another risk with costumes and roaming in the dark for trick-or-treating is using skateboards or scooters. Although fun and speedy, they do place children at risk especially at dusk/night and particularly with awkward shaped or fitting costumes.  A crash can turn a joyous night into a nightmare spending hours in the emergency department getting a broken bone fixed.  Walking is much safer.  The entire family should know the planned route and kids should always use sidewalks and never cut across yards or driveways. Cross streets at designated crosswalks and obey all traffic signals. 

A much too common problem is serious cuts to the hand from attempts to carve pumpkins. The safest approach is that children can be creative with paint or non-carving decoration kits if they want to be involved in creating their Jack-o-lanterns.  Even when parents are involved, smaller children should not carve the pumpkin and the adults (or older children) should use knives specifically designed for the purpose.  This will reduce the risk to tendons and bones from accidents, because these tools are less likely to get stuck. But, it is also important to keep the working space and your hands clean and dry during the process. Finally, don’t forget to cherish the memories and have fun with your kids!