Monday Medical: Here’s to a spookily safe and frighteningly fun Halloween for your ghouls and goblins

Mary Gay Broderick
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Crackling leaves, crisp air and grocery store candy displays must mean Halloween is almost here. And it’s not just for kids anymore: it’s a great reason to get creative with costumes and decorations, gather with friends, enjoy treats and make memories.

“We want to stress safety, but we want everyone to enjoy it as much as possible,” said Jen Cohen, physician assistant at UCHealth Urgent Care in Steamboat Springs.

To make sure your favorite dragon, dinosaur, princess and pirate celebrate safely, Cohen has advice for before, during, and after the evening’s pumpkin prowling.

Prepping for the big night

  • Eat a nutritious meal with fruit, vegetables and protein. “This will help to balance the inevitable ‘sugar high’ and may also help to avoid overindulging,” Cohen said.
  • Costumes should be flame resistant, not drag on the ground and be visible at night with neon strips or reflective tape. “Encourage costumes that are colorful and creative. The brighter, the better to help with visibility,” Cohen said.
  • Make sure accessories such as swords or sticks are not too hard for kids to walk with, especially if they are carrying a candy bag. “And no realistic-looking guns or firearms,” Cohen cautioned.
  • Masks should not obstruct vision or be too cumbersome. Better yet, use face paint.
  • Routes should be planned if your child goes with friends, and parents should provide a curfew. “Use the buddy system so no child is ever alone,” Cohen said. “Bring flashlights or a headlamp, and consider a telephone check in or meet-up time.”
  • Talk with older children and teenagers about alcohol and drugs prior to Halloween night.
  • Dress for the weather by adding layers if it’s snowy or cold.

Out and about

  • Stay on sidewalks and cross streets at crosswalks/stop signs.
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods that are well lit.
  • “Put electronic devices down and keep all heads up,” Cohen said.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Watch for porch steps and curbs, especially with long costumes or props.
  • Don’t go into unfamiliar houses or get into a car if a stranger offers you a ride.
  • Respect houses of neighbors who are not participating.

Back at home

  • Don’t eat opened candy or treats that may have been tampered with.
    “Inspect homemade items like candy apples, fruit and baked goods that came from neighbors you don’t know. Look for any signs of tampering,” Cohen said. “Also, plan a fun activity for kids to sort through candies, maybe trade or play games with the pieces as an alternative to just eating them.”
  • Cohen recommends a good teeth brushing to “avoid the ‘sugar bugs.’”
  • Remove all makeup and face paint before going to bed so as not to irritate skin and eyes.
  • Share extra candy with senior centers, in a community bowl at work, or donate to first responders or deployed troops

A few last reminders

  • Driving at night? Go slow and watch for pedestrians as you’re backing up and heading down driveways and alleys.
  • Handing out candy? Keep porches well-lit, free of leaves, and be sure to tuck any cords or hoses out of the way.
  • Consider LED candles instead of traditional candles in jack-o’-lanterns.
  • Remember your pets. If your dog is distressed by doorbells and shouting, find an alternative soothing room for them. “Also, chocolate can be toxic to our furry friends, so be sure to keep stashes of candy out of reach,” Cohen said.
  • Remember COVID-19 is still a factor, so wash hands and try going out in smaller groups. Homeowners can line up prepackaged goodies on a table to avoid long lines and large clusters of people. “Consider vaccinations,” Cohen said. “There are vaccines available for 6 months and older now.”
  • And last, celebrate the night and be young at heart. “Be safe and have fun,” Cohen said.

Mary Gay Broderick writes for UCHealth. She can be reached at

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