October 23, 2006
"For many people, fall events like Halloween and Harvest Day
are fun times to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend
parties, and eat yummy treats. These events are also opportunities
to provide nutritious snacks, get physical activity, and focus on
Most people may not think
of Halloween as a time to focus on nutrition and physical activity.
On the other hand, each year there are constant reminders to think
about safety. The above site provides tips for a safer and healthier
Halloween in the form of an acrostic for "Safe Halloween."
This includes general information
for all those celebrating.
Some of these tips seasoned
trick-or-treaters will likely have heard before, such as:
alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult. ... Examine all treats
before eating them for choking hazards
and tampering. Limit the amount of treats you eat."
Other tips listed here
(below) are not as well publicized each year, so they should serve
as beneficial reminders for teens and adults who may have forgotten
about some of these hidden health hazards. For example:
"Always test make-up
in a small area first and remove it before bedtime to prevent skin
and eye irritation. ... Lessen your risk for serious eye injury
by not wearing decorative contact lenses. Only walk on sidewalks
or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe."
For those out walking,
Halloween can be a dangerous night. For those in cars, it is not
"* Americans who drink
and drive after parties and festivities make Halloween one of the
year's most dangerous holidays due to alcohol-related crashes.
* In 2003, two-thirds (66.6%) of all highway fatalities at Halloween
* But the nightmare of drinking and driving impaired does not end
at the tragic death, disfigurement, disability and injury caused
by impaired drivers.
* If youre caught and arrested for driving impaired, you face
serious consequences and significant costs."
Highway Traffic Safety Administration
For those attending Halloween
parties where drinking will take place, there needs to be a designated
driver. For those driving home, it is important to be even more
careful and alert than on a "typical" night.
Halloween street safety:
There will be more drunk drivers on the road than on a "typical"
Tuesday night. More children will be out walking (and running) across
the streets than on a "typical" night. Some who are out
will be wearing masks and eye coverings that can impair vision and
make it harder to see the cars and people with which they are sharing
the road. For some trick-or-treaters and party-goers, what they
find in their treat bags is potentially more dangerous than what
they encounter on the roads...
"For some children,
just one bite of candy containing even trace amounts of an allergen
like milk, peanuts, or wheat can trigger a life-threatening anaphylactic
episode ˆ an immediate reaction causing airway swelling, falling
blood pressure, and sometimes death. Halloween masks and costumes
may contain hidden sources of latex, a substance that can be deadly
for children who are allergic to it. ... Food-allergic teenagers
who normally monitor what they eat may be overwhelmed by temptation
on Halloween. Before they go trick-or-treating or to a costume party,
remind them that one bite of the wrong food could be fatal."
For those without food
allergies, it may be difficult to understand the seriousness of
* Even if your children
[or you and your friends] don't have food allergies, other kids
in the neighborhood might. Pass out candy that clearly lists ingredients.
Be creative -- hand out gift certificates or small toys instead."
Small gifts and/ or toys
are not just good alternatives for those with allergies, but those
with other health issues, as well. Those with either Type I or Type
II diabetes will need to be careful with all of the sugary sweets
this time of year.
While the following information
is written for the parents of those with diabetes, older siblings
(and babysitters) who care for kids with diabetes will find useful
information here, as well. Teens and young adults with diabetes
can look at it as a lesson in perspective as they see information
from a parent's point of view that could help them have a safer
and healthier Halloween.
"There's no reason
that having diabetes should interfere with having Halloween fun.
Here are a few tips for a safe and happy Halloween for both you
and your child.
* The best part of Halloween is the "dressing up."
Put extra effort into your child's costume. ...
* Plan a party on Halloween night. That way, friends and family
can get together AND you can plan a healthy menu. * Go to a Halloween
activity in the community such as a haunted house, hayride or bonfire.
* If you think your older child might need to check his blood glucose
while he's out, remind him before he goes or ask him to wear a cell
phone or pager. (His testing supplies may not "wear well"
with his costume and you may want to make arrangements to meet him
for a quick check en route.) * Kids with diabetes can have treats.
Of course, the rule is moderation ...
* Suggest that your child select a few favorite treats and trade
the rest in for a present or money. ...
* A little extra physical activity on Halloween and the following
days may allow your child to have some Halloween treats without
taking extra insulin. Talk to your doctor, diabetes educator, or
dietitian about how to work these treats into her meal plan safely."
Whether you are a teenager
looking for a fun night, a parent watching out for your children,
an older sibling trying to have a safe and fun night with your brothers
or sisters, or a kid just out to get candy, there are basic guidelines
that can keep Halloween safer and healthier for everyone.
"Eat a Healthy Meal
or Snack Before: It's important for children to eat a healthy meal
or snack before trick-or-treating so that theyre not collecting
all that candy on an empty stomach. ... Be Safe and Inspect the
Goodies: When children get home, go through the goodies and make
sure your children only save the ones that are unopened. Be sure
to also inspect their bag for anything suspicious. Teach the Value
of Moderation: A big part of Halloween fun is going out to trick-or-treat
and collecting candy. Rather than restricting children from enjoying
Halloween goodies, use this occasion and other holidays as a way
of teaching children the value of eating in moderation. Have your
children choose their favorite goodies and 'save some for later.'"
The bottom line: Plan ahead,
pay attention, be careful, and think in terms of moderation.
Questions of the Week:
What health and safety issues affect you, your friends, and your
family members more acutely on Halloween? Would you know what to
do if a friend, family member, or acquaintance had a severe allergic
or diabetic reaction? If you have diabetes or severe allergies,
would those who will be out with you know what to do if you have
a severe reaction (at any time, not just on Halloween)? What can
you, your friends, and your family do to make Halloween a safer
and healthier night for everyone?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum