Halloween is one of the oldest known holidays. Its origins go back thousands of years and has roots in both pagan, Celtic, Roman and Christian roots. It is the Romans Pomona day, the Celtic Samhain, and the Christian All Saints Day (eve). In modern times, Halloween is a celebration for children and retains influences from all its founding traditions. Wearing costumes and going door to door for candy and treats, children enjoy the magic and superstition of the holiday. Halloween is all about fun. But as in any horror movie, danger lurks around every corner….
Tonight is Halloween night. Over 41 million children will embark on trick or treating adventures today between the hours of 4pm and 10pm. Most will be dressed in costumes and excited to venture out into the streets in search of candy and other treats. Halloween is all about fun and fantasy. However, Halloween can present significant risks to children; adults must be aware of these risks and discuss them with their kids in order to promote a safe and happy holiday. On October 31st, between the hours of 4pm and 10pm, there are twice as many traffic accidents involving pediatric pedestrians as compared to the same time on any other night in the year. Streets are busy and often excited children run and quickly dart out into the street. Drivers must use extra care on Halloween and be aware of potential hazards. Parents must accompany children and ensure that they stay on sidewalks, cross at crosswalks and avoid running through yards, unmarked paths and streets.
A recent study of pediatric ER visits demonstrated that the number one holiday for emergencies was in fact Halloween. Finger and hand injuries were the most common type of injuries; 33% were from lacerations and 20% were from broken bones. Burns were also a significant injury seen on Halloween night. Of note, nearly ⅓ of Halloween injuries were seen in children ages 10-14. A Harris Interactive poll in 2011 found that 9 out of 10 parents reported that their children would be participating in Halloween related activities, most commonly trick or treating. Although 79% of parents report talking with their children about Halloween related safety at least once, only 35% of parents admit to having a safety discussion every year. Luckily, 75% of surveyed parents report that they would never let their children trick or treat without adult supervision.
A closer look at Halloween related injuries provide guidance to parents for prevention. Lacerations on Halloween were most often related to carving pumpkins. Pumpkin carving requires special tools and really should be done by adults. Alternatives to pumpkin carving include painting or drawing designs with markers. Burns are most often the result of candles catching costumes on fire. The use of fire retardant costumes that fit well are an important preventative measure. As neighbors, it is important to consider using battery powered candles rather than actual flames. Orthopedic injuries are most often the result of falls or pedestrian-vehicle collisions. Certainly as mentioned earlier, good street safety must be practiced. Crossing at designated crosswalks, close adult supervision and the use of flashlights and brightly colored costumes (even reflective tape) greatly reduce the risk of collisions and falls. Drivers on Halloween must slow down and be extra vigilant. Trick or treaters should avoid wearing masks, and leave costume accessories behind. These contribute to falls and orthopedic injury. As neighbors, it is important to clear lawns of debris and equipment such as garden hoses that could contribute to injuries.
So, Halloween is a favorite holiday of most children. Halloween is all about fun. Taking simple, preventative, common sense steps can prevent Halloween injuries and avoid Halloween nightmares.