7 steps to a safe Halloween (and alternatives to trick or treating)

Child in ghost costume holding basket of chocolates in one hand, and raised the other hand up.

After dialing back Halloween festivities during the pandemic, the holiday is expected to be the biggest in two years. Surveys show nearly 7 in 10 Americans plan to celebrate.

But as parents, it’s important to think beyond the immediate fun of the holiday.

“We want to embrace the excitement, but we want to make sure that we move safely in that space,” explains Dr. Sharon Moore-Caldwell, a medical director for BlueCare Tennessee.

Here’s some advice on helping your family enjoy a safe and healthy Halloween this year.

Trick or treating safety tips

1.   Choose costumes carefully

Whether your child chooses to dress up as a princess, a superhero, or a vampire, make sure their costume:

  • Is made of flame-retardant materials
  • Allows them to walk and move easily
  • Doesn’t impede their ability to see.

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: You might also opt for makeup instead of a mask. But you should test the makeup out on their skin in a small spot beforehand to make sure they’re not allergic to it. Also steer clear of costume contact lenses, too. They can be a potential infection risk and even damage eyes.

2.   Go over the rules with your children beforehand

Let your kids know that it’s still important to obey common sense safety rules, such as:

  • Stick to the sidewalks and stay out of the street
  • Look both ways before crossing any roads
  • Skip the houses without any lights on
  • Stay close to you or another trusted adult.

3.   Set parameters for older children and teens

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: Deciding how old is old enough to go trick or treating without a parent depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • your child’s maturity
  • your environment
  • your risk tolerance

You also need to know and trust the area in which they are going.

And if you do let your older kids go trick or treating without an adult, be sure to set some clear boundaries for them. This includes where they can go and what time they’re expected to return home.

4.   Eat dinner before you head out

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: Eat a healthy dinner before putting on costumes and heading out to trick or treat. A child who is well-fed is less likely to be grumpy and also less likely to try and sneak candy.

5.   Carry flashlights when trick or treating.

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: Even if you head out to trick or treat while it’s still daylight, remember that the sun will eventually set. So, it’s a good idea to carry a flashlight with you to help you navigate sidewalks and steps. You can also use reflective stickers or tape on your child’s costume, so they’ll reflect light. Bottom line: you want to see and be seen.

6.   Inspect your child’s candy before they eat it

Over the summer, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an alarm about rainbow fentanyl. These are brightly-colored fentanyl-laced pills that resembles popular candies like Skittles.

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: You probably don’t have to worry about rainbow fentanyl making it into your child’s Halloween bucket. But even so, you should inspect all their candy at the end of the night before you let them eat it:

  • Toss anything that might be a choking hazard for a toddler or young child.
  • Discard any homemade treats—unless you know and trust the person who made them.
  • Check to see if candy wrappers have been opened and resealed, or tampered with in any way.

7.   Be mindful of food allergies

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: If your child has a food allergy, remind them not to sneak any pieces of candy along the way. In fact, you might want to bring a few safe treats from home, just to ward off any temptation.

When you get home from trick or treating, go through your child’s treats to remove allergens, before they eat anything. You can also “trade” candy from their bucket for safe treats that you’ve purchased in advance.

Alternatives to trick or treating

You might weigh all the options and conclude that you don’t feel comfortable letting your children trick or treat this year. That’s absolutely fine. There are plenty of other ways to have fun on Halloween.

  • Have a Halloween party at home. Invite a few friends to join you, or make it a family-only celebration.
  • Attend a “trunk or treat” event in your community.
  • Visit a pumpkin patch or a local farm for old-fashioned fun like hayrides, corn mazes, and other activities.
  • Go to a movie.
  • Hand out candy to trick or treaters. Some small children may not have the stamina (or desire) to walk around their neighborhood, but they can have fun handing out candy.

Dr. Moore-Caldwell: If you choose to celebrate Halloween, you can make it a safe and fun experience for everyone. And try to get your children in bed at a reasonable time. They probably have to go to school the next day—and parents likely have to go to work.

7 Tips for creating a healthier Halloween for your family.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.