Halloween Safety

Make the holiday safe for ghosts and goblins of all ages

Ask kids to list their favorite holidays, and Halloween is sure to be near the top of the list for most kids, from preschoolers to adolescents. But amid the candy, costumes and howling fun, it’s important to keep safety in mind.

“The biggest danger on Halloween isn’t the candy—it’s the automobile,” says Deborah Gulson, MD, board-certified pediatrician at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. Better known as “Dr. Debbi” to her patients, she adds, “On average, there are four times more pedestrian deaths on Halloween than on other days. Kids are so excited about trick-or-treating that they run across the street—often between parked cars. Drivers may not see them, especially after dark and if there are cars parked on the street.”

Dr. Gulson offers the following sound advice for trick-or-treating safety:

For children and parents:

  • Use normal street safety precautions—cross streets at corners, not mid-block, and always look both ways before stepping into the street.

  • Avoid masks that make it hard to see. “Use washable face paint instead,” suggests Dr. Gulson.

  • Avoid long or cumbersome costumes that make it easy to trip.

  • Add reflective tape or glow-in-the-dark necklaces to costumes.

  • Say ‘no’ to props that are sharp, breakable or potentially dangerous to other children.

  • For young children, have an adult chaperone at all times during trick-or-treating.

  • Older trick-or-treaters who don’t want an adult tagging along should travel in groups of 2 or more kids.

  • Make sure your child knows your phone number or even carries a cell phone in case he or she gets separated in a crowd.

  • Bring along an epinephrine pen, asthma inhaler or other emergency safeguards if your child has conditions that may require these medications—just in case.

For adults of all ages:

  • Slow down and be extra careful when driving. “You need to be on the lookout for children,” says Dr. Gulson.

  • Moderate your own Halloween celebration. “This is an especially dangerous night to drive if you’ve had any alcoholic drinks,” she says.

  • Turn on your house lights to help people see in the dark.

  • Avoid using flammables in your decorations. If your jack-o-lantern is near your door or walkway, use a glow light instead of candles.

  • If you leave the house, blow out any candles first.

Know what’s in the bag:

  • Inspect all the trick-or-treat goodies before kids eat anything, and throw out anything with an open wrapper or homemade treats from people you don’t know. “Checking the treat bag is especially important for children with food allergies, diabetes or other dietary restrictions and health concerns,” says Dr. Gulson.

  • Don’t worry so much about the sugar. “Most children will self-limit their sugar intake, but it does help to offer non-sugary food and drink options, especially if kids are out for a long time,” says Dr. Gulson.

Consider healthier alternatives:

“The Lake Bluff police and fire departments serve hot dogs, chips and other candy-alternatives on Halloween,” says Dr. Gulson. “It’s a good place to take a break from the trick-or-treating excitement and get a little non-sugary food into the kids.” Other communities have local businesses that offer small prizes instead of candy. Find out what candy alternatives your community offers. And, consider handing out non-candy treats like stickers, rings or glow sticks to trick-or-treaters who ring your doorbell.

Dr. Gulson reminds everyone that sensible planning and these simple safety tips can make Halloween a safe and fun holiday for everyone.