Tips For Safe, Healthy Halloween

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

When little ghosts and goblins invade neighborhoods in the annual search for Halloween treats, a few extra precautions and careful planning can keep the night safe, fun and healthy for everyone. Experts from Rush University Medical Center offer some tips to help you and your family stay safe and healthy and still have fun.

With daylight savings time not ending until November 2nd, it may be dark outside during many neighborhood trick-or-treating hours. "The biggest risk to children during Halloween is being hit by a car. Remind your child to walk, stay on sidewalks and cross streets at crosswalks or well-lighted intersections," said Dr. Ed Ward, an emergency medicine physician at Rush. "Also there is safety in numbers. Walk in groups with adult supervision."

Try to finish trick-or-treating before dark but have a flashlight handy just in case. Also, agree on a route before heading out. Avoid unknown homes or those without lights on, steer clear of high-traffic areas, and never cross the street between parked cars. If your children are older than 12 and want to trick-or-treat on their own, agree on a curfew and make sure they, too, follow a planned route.

"Choose bright, colorful costumes that reflect light and can be seen easily by drivers," said Ward. Also be sure your child's costume is large enough to be worn over warm clothes but is not so long that he or she might trip. Choose costume accessories and/or props keeping in mind that all items should be flame resistant. Avoid wigs and masks that can interfere with your child's vision and choose make-up or face paint for finishing touches to a costume.


"Don't allow your child to eat any candy until you are another adult has had a chance to check it. Throw away anything that is not securely wrapped and intact," said Ward. "And do not permit children to eat homemade treats unless you know and trust the person who made them. Also do not allow children under the age of four to have gum, nuts, hard candies, seeds or other choking hazards."

Speaking of treats, healthy eating doesn't have to disappear like ghosts on Halloween. A good way to keep the kids from gobbling up too much candy while out trick-or-treating is to send them out with full tummies. Make a healthy and fun dinner with Halloween themed foods such as pumpkin soup, spaghetti and eyeballs, grilled-cheese jack-o-lanterns, or mashed potato ghosts.

"When kids return for trick-or-treating, allowing a few extra pieces of candy on Halloween is perfectly fine. The goal is moderation and balance," said Jennifer Ventrelle, a registered dietitian at Rush University Medical Center. "After Halloween, store candy out of sight and out of the reach. Ration treats by limiting candy to once a day after a healthy snack or dinner."

Instead of handing out candy, fill your Halloween dish with healthy snacks like packages of trail mix, small boxes of raisins or dried fruit, cereal bars, or sugar-free gum. Another alternative is to avoid food all together. Hand out non-food treats like coins, stickers, spider rings, plastic insects, or Halloween pencils.

If you are having a party, offer plenty of healthy snacks such as apple slices with peanut butter, dried fruit and nuts, whole grain crackers, low fat cheese and low fat yogurt with fruit. Another way to incorporate a favorite snack around Halloween time without the extra calories is to cut and offer Taffy Apples in halves. The combination of fruit and nuts is healthy when consumed in the right portion.

And even if you don't have little ghosts and goblins, there are steps you can take to keep other safe. Candles inside carved pumpkins are fire hazards. If you light a jack-o-lantern this year, keep it away from your front door or porch so little costumes don't catch fire. Never leave a lighted pumpkin unattended. Another option for lighting your pumpkin is to use flameless candles. Leave on both your indoor and outdoor lights if you want visits from trick-or-treaters and clear your walkway of wet leaves or other items that could injury hurrying children.