Monday Medical: Keep trick-or-treating spooky but safe |

Monday Medical: Keep trick-or-treating spooky but safe

Susan Cunningham For Steamboat Today

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s a good time to review steps for celebrating safely.

“We want kids to have fun and enjoy Halloween,” said Abigail Hoffner, a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatrics in Steamboat Springs. “But, it’s still important to be aware, be cautious and make good choices.”

Below are Hoffner’s tips for making Halloween fun and safe.

1. Be aware of motorists: “The biggest injuries reported on Halloween are pedestrian injuries,” Hoffner said. “That’s what’s nice about having the downtown area blocked off. If you’re out for a neighborhood trick-or-treat, be aware and cautious, stay in groups, use sidewalks if possible and wear reflective clothing.”

Add reflective tape to a trick-or-treat bag and use flashlights to keep children visible once the sun goes down. And motorists should be sure to pay special attention when driving on Halloween.

2. Keep costumes safe: In addition to making kids bright and reflective, choose costumes and wigs that are flame resistant and avoid anything that could tangle or trip. Well-fitting shoes are important, as are masks that fit well and don’t block eyesight. For costumes that come with a sword or cane, make sure the weapon is not too sharp or too long.

Halloween makeup can irritate the skin, so Hoffner recommends choosing a non-toxic version and trying it ahead of time on a small patch of skin.

And teenagers and adults should be wary of contact lenses that change eye color or appearance.

“Most of those are very unsafe to use,” Hoffner said. “One size does not fit all, and some labels say you don’t need to see an eye specialist, which isn’t true. These contact lenses can cause pain, inflammation and serious eye infections, so be cautious of them.”

3. Trick-or-treat like a pro: Parents should accompany young children, and should make a plan with older kids so they know when to meet up or when to be back home.

Children should know to avoid homes with porch lights that are turned off, and to never go inside a home. Additionally, parents should remind kids of how to call 911 if they get lost or have an emergency.

For people handing out candy, it’s important to make sure sidewalks are clear and that there’s a safe, well-lit path to the door. And be mindful of pets.

“Lots of pets are very upset by Halloween,” Hoffner said. “Be sure you don’t have barking dogs by the door when young kids come because it’s scary for the dogs and the kids.”

4. Practice proper pumpkin carving: Be cautious of using knives with children when carving pumpkins. And once your jack-o’-lantern is complete, consider lighting it with a flashlight or glowstick instead of a candle to prevent the risk of a fire.

5. Be prepared for candy: Make sure children have a good, healthy meal before trick-or-treating and encourage them to wait to eat candy until you can help sort it. Remove anything that is spoiled or suspicious, or that has been tampered with or unwrapped.

Help kids ration candy to enjoy it the days or weeks to come, or find a creative way to get rid of it quickly.

“I know of a lot of families that swap the candy for a toy or give the candy to candy donation,” Hoffner said. Some local banks collect candy and sends it to the troops.

It’s also good to remember that Halloween can be disruptive to bedtimes and weekly routines.

“You can talk with your kids about how this is a fun and exciting time, but that you want to try to stick to routine and any household rules,” Hoffner said. “And then have fun and enjoy.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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