Thanks to endless myths of poisoned gumdrops and chocolate bars laden with needles, I couldn’t dig into my Halloween candy until I took it home and had my parents inspect it. Turns out, there is no evidence any child has even been seriously harmed (or killed) by an intentionally contaminated treat picked up from trick-or-treating.
How to Avoid the Most Common Accidents on Halloween
The Halloween candy panic of 2022 was about "rainbow" fentanyl—and the worry hasn't gone away. But there's more hoax than hazard to this latest candy warning craze. While it's always a good idea to be vigilant when it comes to our kids, it's also important to check our sources. Experts warn that the worry over fentanyl-laced candy is unfounded and the threat unlikely.
While checking your little witch’s and ghoul’s candy is still important, here’s a list of more-common Halloween safety hazards and tips worth paying attention to.
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1. Yield to cars
Halloween is one of the most deadly nights of the year for pedestrians. Kids are more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than any other night. Make sure your children understand cars can’t always see them and to be smart when crossing. During a study, research found 70% of all child pedestrian fatalities happened outside of crosswalks and intersections. Never cross the street between parked cars or mid-block. Instead, walk to the nearest street corner, look both ways, and listen for oncoming cars before crossing.
2. Be seen
Sixty percent of all pedestrian deaths happen when it's dark. Since reflective tape comes in so many colors these days, adding some to your child’s costume will not only make the costume one-of-a-kind, but it will increase the visibility of your child walking down the street. If it doesn’t fit the look or style of their costume, get crafty and assist them to make their own trick or treat bag with reflective tape for added safety.
Lastly, kids love glow sticks. Pick up a few for them to add to their costume, wear as bracelets, or put in their treat bag to increase visibility. Just be sure they know not to ingest them.
3. Choose costumes wisely
Use common sense when letting your little one pick out a costume. We all remember the candy-breath condensation that builds on the inside of a mask as you squint to see through the tiny eye slits. And that hand-me-down princess dress that’s a size too big? Tripping over it would ruin anyone’s night. Encourage simple, comfortable, and warm costumes. Make alterations as needed.
On top of making your costume the envy of every ghoul on parade, makeup, masks, and colored contacts can also damage your eyes. We talked to an expert, and if you plan on masking or making up, you don't want to miss these tips!
4. Stay off of lawns
There is always someone who’s going to be annoyed that the children of the night are trampling their prized and trim lawn. While it’s good to respect people’s wishes, it’s also a safety precaution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched little ghosts and goblins trip over the strings anchoring my mother’s inflatable Frankenstein to the lawn. We finally added caution tape to the strings so they were more visible.
Not all people foresee these accidents and may have decorations that can be damaged or, worse, harmful if tripped over. Teach kids to stay on sidewalks and respect homeowners’ yards. This should keep them safe and keep them from causing any damage.
5. Have a plan
Some parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to trick-or-treat alone. If you think your child is old enough and knows their way around the neighborhood, it can be a great test of independence.
Practice making a route and planning it with your kids while they’re young and you’re still accompanying them. Get creative and make your own map for them to follow and lead the way!
When they’re old enough to go on their own, let them make their own plan and present it to you for approval. Consider designating check-in times for them to let you know they’re okay, make sure they haven’t lost anything, or anyone. For this, we recommend sending a cell phone with them. Hint: Stick it in their candy bag to avoid it getting lost. We all know they won’t lose that!
If you want to track them more closely, download an app on the smartphone you send them with to check their whereabouts at any time. They’ll stay safe, and you won’t have to worry about being an overbearing parent.
If you’re really invested, you can use a wearable kids GPS tracker to keep an eye on them year-round.
Lastly, set a curfew. We recommend children should be home by 9:30 p.m.
6. Look for porch lights
Warn kids that homes aren’t always welcoming to trick-or-treaters. As a rule of thumb, look for a well-lit home with a porch light on. This is a universal signal that trick-or-treaters are welcome. Teach them a dark house may mean no one is home or that the resident is done for the night.
If they're unsure if a home is open to trick-or-treaters, tell them to simply leave and move on to the next. Last, they should never enter a home without you or another adult you've put in charge.
7. Prepare emergency contact information
While seldom needed, it’s a good idea to have contact information on your child in case of emergency. If they have an emergency card, stick it in their pocket or bag. An even better idea is to write an “If lost call” message with a fine-point pen or marker on your child’s wrist. Seal it with liquid bandage to keep it from washing off.
8. Beware of food allergies
Wheat, peanut, and milk could all spell disaster for a little one with food allergies. A non-safe piece of candy can break open in their bag, contaminating the remainder of the loot.
The Food Allergy Research and Education organization launched the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 to raise awareness and encourage non-food treats for all trick-or-treaters alike. Here's a list of cost-effective, non-food prizes you can give away.
Look for homes displaying a teal pumpkin and/or the FARE Teal Pumpkin sign. This signals they’ve taken the pledge to provide non-food treats to trick-or-treaters.
A few last-minute rules to teach your kids
- Never accept a ride from a stranger.
- Never split up from your group; stay together.
- Make sure shoes are comfortable and won’t chafe.
- If lost or in trouble, find a phone and call home immediately.
Halloween presents excellent learning opportunities for kids to learn and apply common safety practices. Give them the opportunity to make smart decisions, but be there to supervise and enforce the rules.