We have officially entered fall. The temperatures are dropping, sunset is coming earlier and Starbucks has again brought back its vast assortment of pumpkin-flavored treats and drinks.
The Halloween season has become widely embraced by children of all ages, so this seems to be as good a time as any to review some basic safety and healthy tips to enjoy the day.
Even the youngest kids can safely get into the spirit. Infants and young toddlers in particular should limit their refined sugar intake, but they can enjoy sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash or other fall vegetables.
Pumpkin carving is too dangerous and difficult at this age, but they can still stick their hands into the pumpkins and help remove the squishy pulp and seeds. Kids who are squeamish about getting sticky and dirty have many non-carving ways to decorate pumpkins with markers, stickers or paint.
If you plan to take young children trick-or-treating, make sure to keep them dressed appropriately for the weather. As we all know, it can easily be snowing or rainy in late October. Don’t keep them out too late, and especially for the younger toddlers and infants, you may need a back-up costume in case of diaper accidents or spills.
School-age children may go farther for trick-or-treating, but they should still be accompanied by an adult while wandering around the neighborhood. It’s a good idea to have a reflective surface either on costumes or on the trick-or-treat bags to keep kids visible while crossing the street. Make sure kids cross only in groups, using designated crosswalks. No darting between cars.
Older kids can go out on their own, but they should review safety tips. Make sure to go over their route before they go out and make sure at least one kid in the group has a cell phone in case of emergencies.
One safety risk that many parents don’t think about is the possibility of injuries, especially from cars. Masks and other costumes that might impair vision can increase the risk of injury.
Older children may want to wear decorative contact lenses to make the costumes more realistic. However, these pose a risk. You should never wear decorative lenses if they weren’t fitted and prescribed by an eye doctor. Contacts that claim to be “one size fits all” often don’t fit properly. Wearing them could cause problems such as scratches to the cornea, and since they may not be made in a sterile environment, they can cause an allergic reaction, infection or even decreased vision.
The most common thing parents worry about is the excessive intake of sugary treats. If kids go trick-or-treating after eating a well-balanced meal, they will feel full and will be less likely to snack on treats while they’re out.
Once kids come home, it’s a good idea to sort through the candy, looking for any choking hazards or potentially dangerous treats, such as any spoiled, partially unwrapped or suspicious items.
The best way to enjoy the candy is to ration it out over the next several weeks – this way your kids can enjoy their treats for much longer, and you don’t have to worry about them ruining their diets.
And don’t forget to save a treat or two for yourself.
Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatric care for the Cleveland Jewish News. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma.