For kids, few holidays match the thrill of Halloween: staying out late, dressing in costume, and collecting literally tons of treats-an estimated 600 million pounds of Halloween candy was sold last year, at a staggering cost of $2 billion. If that weren't frightening enough, potential hazards such as adulterated candy, flammable costumes, and car accidents make trick-or-treating a fairly terrifying prospect. Some tips to keep your kids safe on the scariest night of the year:
Cross safely. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates, four times more kids are hit by cars on Halloween than on any other night of the year. Keep your kids safe: little ones should be accompanied by an adult, and always hold hands when crossing streets. Even older kids will benefit from a review of street safety: stay on the sidewalk, stop before crossing, look both ways, cross only at crosswalks, and never cross between parked cars.
Be costume savvy. Black ninja or witch costumes make kids almost impossible to see at night. Encourage lighter colors, or affix reflective tape strips to back, legs, arms, and feet. Costumes should be sized properly to prevent tripping and falling, and shoes should fit and be easy to walk in (no high heels for little ones). Be sure masks don't impede vision or hearing-younger kids shouldn't wear them at all. Props should be light and safe, without pointed, sharp, or jagged edges. And for younger children, tape or safety pin a tag with your child's name, your name, and your phone number to their costumes.
Check candy. Though there's never been a confirmed report of a stranger randomly poisoning candy, there are a few verified reports of sharp objects, such as needles or razor blades, in candy. So while it's extremely rare, it is possible. Best to be safe and check candy before kids eat it. Throw away fruit, homemade treats, and anything that's not in its original wrapper. Be especially cautious of small children choking on nuts or gum-that's much more likely to happen than poisoning or sharp objects.
Balance blood sugar. Few Halloween happenings are scarier than an over-sugared kid. Take precautions before the big event. Feed kids a substantial dinner with enough fat, fiber, and protein to balance blood sugar through the evening. (Try our Cheeseburger Jack-o'-Lanterns.) If dinner is early and trick-or-treating is late, arrange for high-protein snacks before kids head out for the evening: beef jerky, mixed nuts, hummus, deviled eggs, roasted chickpeas, protein smoothies, and sliced turkey or cheese are good options.
Few Halloween happenings are scarier than an over-sugared kid, so plan a dinner with enough fat, fiber, and protein to keep their blood sugar balanced.
Protect teeth. From a dental health perspective, Halloween really is a nightmare. You can't completely prohibit kids from indulging, but you can limit candy consumption. The biggest danger is nibbling throughout the day, which keeps teeth constantly bathed in sugar. Don't pack candy in school lunches or give it for snacks. Instead, let kids have a couple of pieces after dinner, then brush and floss thoroughly. And for Halloween treats at home, choose xylitol gum-it doesn't promote decay and can even prevent cavities and improve gum health.
Carve safely. Jack-o'-lanterns are key to Halloween fun, but open flames and sharp carving knives are risky. Don't let little kids use knives; give them black markers to draw faces on pumpkins. Or buy a pumpkin carving kit-they're made with dull carving tools that can cut pumpkins, but not fingers. Older kids can use a plastic lettuce knife or a sharp knife with supervision. Scoop out the insides with a metal spoon or ice cream scoop, rather than a sharp knife. And instead of traditional candles, buy flickering flameless tea lights or small pillars for safe illumination.
Soothe stomachs. Overeating candy can give kids a powerful stomachache. Why? The body may not digest large quantities of sugar, and undigested portions can ferment in the lower intestine and produce gas. If your child overindulges, peppermint or ginger can help. Brew a very strong tea (use only one-quarter the usual amount of water) to speed digestion and relieve gas. Chewing on fennel seeds also helps. Or give your child a small amount of baking soda in warm water. Supplements that can help include Nux vomica homeopathic pellets, Bach Rescue Remedy, and papaya enzymes.