Trick-or-treating: Top Halloween safety tips

No Tricks, Just Treats: How to Have a Safe Halloween

While some families will not be doing traditional trick-or-treating in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, if your community is allowing public Halloween activities to take place, keep the following safety tips in mind.

COSTUME SAFETY Costumes and other components can create hazards if you’re not careful. The following tips will help you make sure your child’s disguise doesn’t cause any hazards:

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  • Look for light-colored, flame-resistant costumes Look for masks, wigs, costumes and other components that are labeled as flame- resistant or made of flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon. Also choose light-colored costumes when possible since they’re easier for drivers to spot at night.
  • Look for a proper fit Make sure all masks, shoes and other parts of your child's costume fit well. He or she should be able to see well and walk without tripping over a costume that drags the ground or because of shoes that are too large.
  • Take care with makeup Buy only nontoxic Halloween makeup, and always test it in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to help prevent irritation.
  • Use safe accessories Use swords, knives and other accessories made of soft materials that won't cause injury if your child falls on them.
  • Make your child more visible Add reflective tape to your child's costume and treat bag to make him or her more visible.
  • Protect their eyes Skip wearing decorative contact lenses to avoid injuring your eyes, and don’t let your kids wear them.

DECORATION SAFETY Whether your decorations are inside or outside, the following tips will help you make sure they’re safe:

  • Don't create a tripping hazard Set up your decorations so they don't interfere with the flow of foot traffic. Also secure any outdoor inflatables so they don't present a tripping hazard, and keep the path from your driveway and walkway clear.
  • Use electricity safely Don't overload your electrical circuits or use multiple extension cords when you're plugging in decorations.
  • Create a safe jack-o'-lantern Let your child help draw the pumpkin pattern and take out the seeds and pulp, but leave the actual carving to adults. Use battery-operated candles or LED lights instead of open flames in carved pumpkins.
  • Watch for fire hazards Don't drape fabrics over light bulbs, since the heat from the bulb could start a fire.
  • Don't misuse decorations Pay attention to instructions and information on the box that your decorations are packaged in. Don't use decorations outside if they're labeled only for indoor use.
  • Look for the UL label Look for the UL designation on decorations you're buying. This mark is used on lights, electrical decorations, extension cords and more and indicates that it meets the safety standards of the nonprofit Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Inspect your older decorations Check your older decorations before using them. If you see evidence of loose connections, frayed wires or cracked sockets, replace these decorations with new, undamaged ones.
  • Make decorations fun, not scary Don't have any decorations that are too scary, and don't try to jump out and scare young trick-or-treaters. They could find the scare more frightening than funny and jump off your porch and be hurt or run away and trip.

ROAD SAFETY

Drive carefully and keep your kids safe as they navigate neighborhood streets with the following tips:

  • Slow down and be cautious If you're driving on Halloween, slow down in residential neighborhoods and watch out for trick-or-treaters who may unexpectedly dart into the street. Especially if they're wearing dark costumes, they can be difficult to see.
  • Be visible Turn your headlights on, even if it's still light outside, so you'll be more visible to trick-or-treaters.
  • Arm trick-or-treaters with flashlight Make sure your trick-or-treaters carry a flashlight with fresh batteries, but teach them to carry it facing downward so they don't temporarily blind oncoming drivers.
  • Stick to sidewalks Walk on sidewalks when possible, and if they're not available, walk on the left side of the road so you're facing traffic.
  • Cross the street safely Cross streets only at the corner, and never cross between parked vehicles.
  • Make sure kids are supervised If you're not accompanying your kids, ensure that they're going with another adult or an older, responsible young person if they're under 12. CANDY SAFETY Make sure you child's candy doesn't cause any harm with the following tips:
  • Inspect your child's candy Tell your kids to wait until you can look through their candy at home before they eat any. Tampering is rare, but it does happen. Look for any tears in wrappers, tiny pinholes, or anything that looks discolored or unusual. Throw out anything that isn't commercially wrapped, unless it's a homemade treat from someone you personally know well.
  • Check for allergens If your child has a food allergy, read the ingredient label of commercially wrapped treats to make sure it doesn't contain any allergens. Skip homemade treats, since you can't be sure of what they contain.
  • Look for teal pumpkins If you see a teal pumpkin at a home, that signifies that it's safe for trick-or-treaters with food allergies since the homeowners offer non-food treats like small toys. Look for homes that display these if your child has allergies, and provide this welcoming sign of safe treats for kids who visit your home.
  • Check for choking hazards Check through non-candy treats to make sure they're not a choking hazard to your child if he or she is younger. Also go through their candy and eliminate any hard candies or any other items they could choke on.

SAFE TRICK-OR-TREAT LOCATIONS Review the Centers for Disease Control Prevention Halloween guidelines and local ordinances before making plans to trick or treat in 2020. Below are general safety guidelines.

  • Visit 'trunk or treat' events Organizations such as churches often hold trunk or treat events where people decorate their opened trucks and hand out candy. This helps children stay in a confined area and avoid streets and traffic.
  • Hit the mall Malls sometimes have Halloween events where stores give out candy to children in costume. You'll avoid traffic and other outdoor hazards while ensuring that weather won't be a factor.
  • Check with neighborhood associations If you live in a community with a neighborhood association, these organizations often have information about which houses are handing out candy. The association may also host a clubhouse party for the holiday.
  • Use Nextdoor's treat map The social network site for neighborhoods has a Halloween treat map that lets you and your neighbors "advertise" that you'll be handing out Halloween candy. You can use it to plan the best route for your trick-or-treaters.
  • Know which houses to avoid Several states prohibit registered sex offenders from handing out candy on Halloween, and at least one, Maryland, requires them to post “No candy at this residence” signs. You can also check the U.S. Department of Justice’s website for links to your state’s sex offender registry or download a mobile app that you can use along the way to tell you which homes to avoid.