Halloween Security Tips

jack-o-lanternFor many people, Halloween is a time for fun. For kids it is a time to wear costumes of their favorite cartoon character, superhero, or just about anything that may percolate from their imaginations. At night it is also a time for them to go trick-or-treating for candy. For adults, Halloween is also a fun time for parents- people of all ages are known for enjoying parties, wearing costumes that range from scary to silly, passing candy out to kids in the neighborhood, or taking children of their own to go trick-or-treating.

Celebrated for its spooky and scary themes such as spiders and witches, Halloween has the makings of one of the best holidays of the year. Unfortunately, it can also be very dangerous, no matter if it’s day or night. To have a safe holiday that is filled with more treats than tricks, adults and children be aware of the potential dangers, and they must also take the steps to prevent situations that increase the likelihood of those dangers.

Costume Safety

Costumes represent a number of risks for children, regardless of whether they are trick-or-treating or attending a party. Hazards associated with costumes include: fire, how the costume fits, allergic reactions to make up, and dangers associated with traffic.

Fire is a potential risk that children must be protected against. Candles in lanterns and the excess layers of clothing that usually constitute children’s costumes increase the chances of a fire related incident. To safeguard against this possible disaster, parents or guardians should insist on buying costumes that carry a fire-resistant label. If a parent makes a costume, careful attention must be paid to the fabrics used for the costume; cotton, acetate, rayon or blends of these fabrics are more flammable than clothes made of nylon or polyester.

The fit of the costume can add to the risk of injury. Long costumes increase a child’s risk of tripping and injuring his or herself while walking around trick-or-treating outdoors. Outfits that are too dark are also very problematic, as it makes the child difficult for drivers to see. If costumes are not reflective, parents should add reflective tape to improve visibility (usually to the child’s dismay- superhero’s don’t wear reflective tape!). It is important to highlight that safety takes precedence over a costume’s accuracy. In addition, props such as swords should be flexible and made of materials that will not accidentally injure the child or their friends.

Costumes often require some modification to the face, there are pros and cons to both face masks and costume make up. Face masks can be problematic for kids that will be walking outdoors at night. A face mask can hinder a child’s vision, making it difficult to see cars and other things that are going on around him or her. On the other hand, face makeup can irritate sensitive skin, and clog pores. Test make up on skin prior to going through a full application so that any irritation is minimized. Usually testing the make up a few days prior to Halloween on the inside of the arm is a good approach.

  • CPSC Safety Alert: Halloween Safety (PDF)
  • Consumer Reports: Trick or Treat! Tips for Halloween Safety
  • Halloween Safety Tips – Costume Safety
  • Halloween Costume Safety
  • Halloween Safety – Costumes

Candy and Food Safety

On Halloween there are two main sources of concern when it comes to food – candy and party food. Either has the potential to make people. For children, candy is the primary attraction of the day. Parents will want to carefully check each piece of candy to ensure that it has not been tampered with and is safe to eat. Children must be instructed to bring all candy home before eating any. Anything that is open or homemade should be discarded. This will eliminate the risk of children eating food that has not been prepared in a safe manner or food that has been made with toxic substances. Anyone who is suspicious of tampering or foul play should contact the local authorities.

When at parties, people of all ages should be cautious of food that has not been kept at the appropriate temperatures. When preparing food for a party, it is important to keep perishables refrigerated until they are ready to be served and to leave them out for no longer than two hours. Ciders, such as apple cider, are popular during this holiday. When serving cider at a party, only buy cider that has been pasteurized. This will ensure that any bacteria that can be harmful to guests has been destroyed. Bobbing for apples is another tradition enjoyed at Halloween parties, however, it is not sanitary and germs are easily shared. Adults and children both should refrain from participating in this game unless individual bowls containing apples and water are passed out to guests.

  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Halloween Food Safety Tips (PDF)
  • Fox 19: Keeping You Safe: Checking Halloween Candy
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture: ODA Offers Halloween Food Safety Advice
  • Channel Islands California State University: Safety Tips for Checking Halloween Candy
  • Washington State Department of Health: Halloween Food Safety – Trick or Treating Tips

Staying Safe While Trick or Treating

To keep trick-or-treating fun, yet safe, parents or guardians of younger children should take certain precautions. Ideally, take children out to trick-or-treat before it is fully dark. Younger children should also never be allowed to go out without the presence of a well-trusted adult or even an older, teenage sibling. When trick-or-treating in the dark a flashlight should be on hand at all times and parents should hold onto the hands of small children. Older kids who are responsible enough to go trick-or-treating by themselves must also take precautions. Parents should be aware of exactly where the teen is going and what route he or she plans to take. Preferably, the area should be one that both are familiar with and the homes should belong to people whom they are acquainted with. Teens should also only be allowed to trick-or-treat with kids that are known to the parents and who are not negative influences. Teenagers should also be wary of traffic and carry flashlights on them. Carrying a fully charged cellphone is also important so that he or she can call a parent if necessary. Other ground rules that must be adhered to include avoiding homes that appear unoccupied or that have no illumination, and never accepting a ride from anyone other than family.

  • Reader’s Digest: Seven Trick or Treat Safety Tips
  • Halloween Safety Information for Parents
  • CDC: Halloween Health and Safety Tips
  • Trick or Treat: Halloween Safety (PDF)
  • Halloween Safety (PDF)

Makeup Safety

Face makeup is a smart and recommended substitute for replacing masks; however, parents must take care when purchasing makeup and applying it to the faces of their children. Even adults should use caution when it comes to what they use on their own faces. Makeup or face paint should be made specifically for that purpose and must be non-toxic. Certain fragrances and color additives are more irritating than others on children’s skin. Although color additives in these makeup kits are approved for the skin, they may still be harmful if used near the eyes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides information about what color additives are safe around this sensitive area on their website. People should verify the list of additives against the FDA’s Summary of Color Additives before using them on themselves or around the eyes of their kids. Once it has been verified as safe there are several steps that must be taken. When the makeup is first opened smell it to check for unusual odors which is an indication of a contaminated product. To ensure that there is no allergy to any of the ingredients in the makeup, a small amount should be placed on the inner arm of the person who will be wearing it. This should be done at least two days before Halloween. If irritation occurs there is probably an allergy and the makeup should not used. If there is none, read and follow the directions for application. At the end of the day, no one should sleep in their makeup as this can cause irritation. As with applying the makeup, follow directions for its removal.

  • FDA: Product and Ingredient Safety – Cosmetics
  • Medill Reports Newsletter: Makeup 101: A Safe, Reaction-Free Halloween For Your Kids
  • Happy Halloween Faces
  • Before You Use Halloween Face Paint for Your Kid’s Costume, Read This
  • A Guide to Halloween safety