Halloween festivities are back: Here is what you need to know to keep your children safe

UAB experts advise parents to think about keeping kids safe this Halloween. 

Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Anna Jones

stream pumpkinsAfter two years of strict masking and social distancing, a somewhat traditional, festive Halloween is back. While it should be fun, keeping kids safe on Halloween may be a daunting task because of the risk of injuries or sickness.  

Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say there are many ways to keep oneself and others safe this Halloween.  

Protect your eyes and vision

According to Adam Gordon, O.D., professor in the UAB School of Optometry and director of the Cornea and Contact Lens Service at UAB Eye Care, the use and misuse of decorative contact lenses is one of the main eye risks at Halloween.

“Decorative lenses are often sold without a prescription and without a doctor to supervise the fitting process,” Gordon said. “These lenses are often swapped among friends without cleaning and disinfection and without professional evaluation of the lens fit or the ocular response to the lenses.”

Therefore, Gordon discourages the use of decorative Halloween contact lenses without proper education on wear, care and hygiene.

“An optometrist or ophthalmologist should evaluate the ocular surface and provide guidance for the fitting and follow-up process,” Gordon said. “Lack of lens care can cause inflammation, pain, redness, scarring and even decreased vision.”

Although masks can bring a lot of fun to Halloween festivities, they can be a safety hazard when not worn properly. Before heading out to trick or treat, make sure masks and other costume accessories do not block vision in the eyes to reduce the risk of injury. Consider using makeup instead of masks. Choose costume makeup carefully, and be aware of ingredients such as fragrances, preservatives, metallic pigments and color additives that may cause irritation to the eyes. Avoid applying products inside the eyelash line, and avoid using glitter to decrease the chance of irritation to the eyes.

Choose costumes carefully

There are many factors that can increase risk of injury on Halloween. David Schwebel, Ph.D., professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology and director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab, warns that ill-fitting costumes could be a potential cause of injury.

Pumpkins“Ill-fitting costumes can cause falls and obstruct vision,” Schwebel said. “While purchasing costumes, it is important to make sure they properly fit and aren’t suffocating.”

Schwebel cautions against loose hanging clothing that could catch fire near candles. When it comes to costumes, Schwebel recommends not overdoing it with scary costumes for and around younger children since they can be sensitive to unfamiliar, scary things, he says.

“While it is important to make Halloween fun for children, it is also important to be mindful of their comfort and to take steps to avoid causing any anxiety,” Schwebel said. “Costumes that are too scary should be avoided for younger children.”

Be careful carving pumpkins

Using knives and sharp tools while carving can be dangerous for young children, but that should not limit them from participating in the fun activity. Using kid-friendly substitutes can ensure safety while keeping the joy intact.

“Younger children can scoop out the pumpkin seeds, draw designs, paint and use markers for decorating pumpkins instead of sharp tools,” Schwebel said. “Adults should take care of cutting jack-o’-lanterns and lighting candles.” 

CandyScan through the treats

In his book, “Raising Kids Who Choose Safety,” Schwebel says Halloween is a classic example of a cooperative tradition where children go trick-or-treating and receive treats from strangers. However, he advises supervising adults to scan through those treats in case they have been tampered with and to watch out for choking hazards.

Walk the streets safely

According to Schwebel, walking the streets in the dark can lead to bigger risks of injury. Following these simple guidelines can significantly decrease the risk:

  • Always accompany young children when they go trick-or-treating, especially children under the age of 10.
  • Stay in familiar, well-lighted areas, and plan your route.
  • Remind children to stop and look for traffic before crossing a street.
  • Be careful driving. Slow down and keep an eye out for roaming ghosts and goblins.
  • Visit only homes that have porch or outside lights turned on.
  • Use flashlights when trick-or-treating.
  • Attach strips of reflective tape to your child’s costume.
  • Do not let kids wear mom’s or dad’s shoes. Dress them in shoes that fit, so they remain stable on their feet.
  • Be careful if you cut across lawns. Ornaments and clotheslines are hard to see in the dark. Stay on sidewalks and yard walkways.

Prevent the spread of diseases

While it is important to enjoy Halloween celebrations, Erin DeLaney, M.D., a family medicine physician in the UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine and medical director at UAB Family and Community Medicine-Highlands, wants to remind trick-or-treaters about the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

Here is what you can do to limit the spread of viral diseases:

  • Wash hands before and after events
  • Sanitize hands frequently throughout the evening
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough and sneezes
  • Get your flu shot and get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19

To schedule your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, please visit https://uabmedicinevaccine.org/.

Information about flu shots at UAB can be found here.