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10 Halloween Safety Tips

Contributor Jennifer Hanson, MD
7 minute read
Costumed children with their hands full of candy.

Halloween is a creepy-fun holiday for kids, but it can also be full of hazards for your little ghosts, witches, and superheroes.

“Halloween is a super fun night, and it’s certainly one of my favorite nights of the year. We don’t want to take the fun out of it for kids, but there are some important health and safety risks to be aware of during and after trick-or-treating,” says Jennifer Hanson, MD, a Mass General Brigham pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

You and your kids can have a safe Halloween by taking a few simple steps and staying vigilant. Dr. Hanson discusses safe trick-or-treating, costumes, and other safety tips for Halloween:

1. Carve safely (or not at all!).

It goes without saying that children should never handle sharp knives, and parents and caretakers should always assume pumpkin carving duties. But there are ways to avoid sharp blades completely.

“Have kids decorate pumpkins with paint and stickers instead of carving them,” suggests Dr. Hanson. They can create all kinds of detailed and unique designs. Just be sure the paint is nontoxic.

2. Beware of fire hazards.

Many people use candles in their jack-o’-lanterns, but costumes, kids, and flames are a dangerous combination — a risk for fires and burns. “I strongly suggest using battery-operated candles or short strings of twinkle lights instead of lit candles,” says Dr. Hanson.

On a similar note, she also cautions against any costume pieces that may be flammable. “Make sure your kids’ costumes are made of only flame-resistant materials.”

3. Make costumes safe.

Costumes are the centerpiece on Halloween night, but they can pose risks to your kids. Here’s what to avoid:

  • Costume pieces that are baggy or drag and could cause tripping

  • Dark costumes that make it difficult for drivers to see your kids

  • Masks that limit peripheral vision (Dr. Hanson suggests nontoxic face paint instead of masks)

  • Poor-fitting shoes or high heels that might cause falls

Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween night. Kids are excited, so you need to expect they’ll be running and moving around more erratically than usual.

Jennifer Hanson, MD
Mass General Brigham

4. Be seen on the streets.

When you’re out trick-or-treating, safety often comes down to how visible you are to drivers.

Halloween is a busy night, so expect more traffic on the roads than usual. Reinforce for kids the importance of walking on sidewalks (not in the street) and crossing only at labeled crosswalks, where drivers can see you.

Make it easy for drivers to see you and your kids as the sun starts to set. “Add reflective tape to costumes and have kids carry glow sticks and flashlights,” suggests Dr. Hanson. Give your kids brightly colored trick-or-treat bags, and put reflective tape on those, too.

She also recommends using strollers and wagons for little ones, even if they can walk on their own. “That way, it’s easier to keep track of small children,” she says.

5. Be alert behind the wheel.

If you’re driving on Halloween, you have an extra responsibility. “Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween night,” says Dr. Hanson. “Kids are excited, so you need to expect they’ll be running and moving around more erratically than usual.”

She offers these safe driving tips:

  • Drive slowly.

  • Stay off your phone.

  • Take extra time at crosswalks, stop signs, and traffic lights.

  • Turn on headlights even before it’s fully dark.

  • Watch for kids running out between parked cars.

6. Avoid alcohol.

Adults should never drink and drive, but Dr. Hanson strongly recommends avoiding alcohol completely on Halloween, even if you’re walking. “It’s just not a night to indulge in anything that could impact your ability to be alert,” she says.

7. Don’t be distracted.

Excited kids will be less attentive — and more unpredictable — than usual, so it’s your job as the adult to be extra vigilant when out trick-or-treating.

“There should be no phone use while you’re walking,” says Dr. Hanson. “It’s just too easy to get distracted when you have your phone in your hand.” And if you’re walking with other adults, be careful not to get too caught up in conversation.

8. Stick together.

If older kids are going trick-or-treating on their own, it’s important that parents know where they’ll be. “Make sure everyone agrees on the route,” says Dr. Hanson. “And then make sure they know they need to stick together. Don’t leave anyone alone.”

Also remind older kids to stay off their phones, pay attention to their surroundings, and watch for cars.

9. Inspect all candy at home.

It’s tempting to let kids start munching on treats from the trick-or-treat bags while you’re still out, but it’s important to inspect all the candy before letting kids dive in.

“There are a few concerns here,” says Dr. Hanson. “On Halloween night, there’s usually a spike in emergency room visits because of food allergy exposures in candy or homemade treats. Even though people may have good intentions with homemade goodies, it’s best to toss them out because you can’t know for sure what’s in them.”

Wait until you’re home and spread out the candy in a well-lit room. Check for:

  • Allergen ingredients

  • Homemade or unwrapped treats (discard them)

  • Small candies that may be choking hazards for younger children

10. Avoid tummy aches.

Nothing kills a fun holiday like tummy trouble, so encourage kids to take it easy with their Halloween haul. “If kids eat too much candy, they will absolutely end up with a stomachache,” says Dr. Hanson. “Too many sweets can also cause constipation, nausea, and vomiting.”

Be sure to monitor and limit the amount of candy kids eat on and after Halloween to avoid ruining the fun.

“On Halloween, take the right precautions, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself,” says Dr. Hanson. “It can and should be a really fun night for kids and adults alike.”