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How to keep kids safe & healthy on Halloween

Harvard Health Publications is the publishing branch of Harvard Medical School. Publications include monthly consumer health newsletters focusing on general health, women's health, men's health, mental health, and cardiovascular health; ...

Halloween trick or treat

Halloween is an exciting time for kids, and we can all help to make sure that children have a safe and fun trick or treat with these tips.

Kids examining Halloween CandyCandy

Kids will be less likely to overload on candy if they eat something before they go out to trick or treat. And they'll be more likely to do that if you make it fun. One idea: Host a make-your-own-jack-o'-lantern pizza party. Give each child a miniature pizza and allow him or her to create a masterpiece. You can use onions, peppers, or olives for eyes, and mushrooms for a toothy grin.

Before Halloween, decide--with your children--on a specific number of trick or treat candy they can eat per day, and how long that should go on. After that cut-off date, donate the excess candy or put it away and take it out for special treats throughout the year. Set a treat calorie limit for yourself as well. Of course, make sure your child knows not to eat any treats until you've checked them to make sure the safety seal hasn't been tampered with.

Costumes

Costumes are an essential part of Halloween fun, but hazardous situations can arise if a costume is made from the wrong materials or does not fit properly.

"Every Halloween we see children brought to our emergency department with problems related to costumes. Masks that are ill-fitting interfere with vision, and outfits that are baggy or extend beyond ankles lead to trips and falls," says Harvard Health Letter advisory board member Dr. John T. Nagurney, an attending physician in emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Children who will be trick-or-treating after dusk should have reflective tape on their costumes and treat bags, and should carry flashlights with fresh batteries.

Jack-o'-lanterns

Carving jack-o'-lanterns is a Halloween tradition that the whole family can participate in, though small children should never do the actual carving. Let them draw a face with markers, and then you can do the cutting. Under parents' supervision, children ages 5 to 10 can carve with pumpkin cutters that have safety bars.

Home safety

Keep your own home safe for visiting trick-or-treaters by removing anything that a child could trip over and by replacing any burned-out outdoor light bulbs.

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