Yes, Halloween is again approaching. While the holiday has the potential to spook and scare, the following safety and wellness tips can keep the night enjoyable.
Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning listed several Halloween safety tips, beginning with costumes.
“Make sure the costumes fit (the kids) properly,” he said. “Masks really reduce vision–– (kids) can hardly see––and loose costumes can cause falls and accidents.”
Kinning also said trick-or-treaters should carry a light source, such as a flashlight, and wear light, reflective costumes.
Sharp, pointed objects and pretend weapons are also a costume hazard.
“Don’t allow your kids to carry things like toy weapons or sharp pointed objects they could fall on,” Kinning said.
“Go without, or make (props) out of a material like cardboard or something that can’t protrude.”
In addition to costume safety, Kinning suggests trick-or-treating during daylight hours, lasting until about 7:30 p.m.
“Especially with the small children, it’s best to take them trick-or-treating before dark,” he said. “It’s OK if you do it after dark, but it’s much safer during the daylight hours.”
As far as Halloween goodies, it’s advisable to eat only prepackaged treats and discard loose, ripped or otherwise damaged items, Kinning said.
“Things like unpackaged popcorn and small candies that are loose probably shouldn’t be eaten and should probably be discarded,” he said. “I know that sounds terrible, but things happen.
“And anything like fruit should be cut into real small pieces, and washed and inspected by parents.”
In addition to safety tips for parents and children, Kinning also had safety advice for homeowners handing out treats, as well as anyone operating motor vehicles.
Homeowners should keep yards well-lit and only hand out prepackaged treats.
People operating motor vehicles should obey the speed limits and be alert.
“Be careful, very careful,” Kinning said. “The streets will be full of kids.”
Candy is one of the key attractions of Halloween. Sugar, over time, however, can damage children’s teeth, with the main problem being tooth decay.
Loren Loewen, Hillsboro dentist, recommends enjoying candy in moderation, and also being aware of the types of candy children eat.
“I’m not that negative on the candy issue,” he said. “So let (your) child enjoy the candy, but just use some common sense.”
Loewen suggested parents should follow some sort of monitoring system to moderate candy consumption.
“From a parent point of view, I would rather see my kid sit down and eat some candy and then take it away,” he said. “In other words, let them eat what they want for 10, 15 minutes, and then take it and put it away.
“Don’t just let them have the bag in their rooms where they’re just helping themselves whenever they want, all day long through the day.
“Let them have their stuff and enjoy it, but then take it away for awhile and then the next day or a day or two later, let them have it again.
“Use some common sense in moderating that candy, and not just letting them have it, not just letting them have free game––as much as they want.”
After children eat candy, particularly in the evening, they should rinse and brush their teeth, Loewen said. He also encouraged flossing teeth.
“Make sure (kids) are not going to bed with a whole bunch of stuff in there,” he said.
While all candy can potentially harm teeth, some can do more damage than others.
Hard candy as well as sticky candy, like caramel, stays in the mouth longer, and has more potential for damaging teeth.
“In my line of work, what we’re concerned mostly about is sugar over time,” Loewen said. “In other words, the length of contact the sugar has to the teeth. So probably the most damaging thing is if (kids) get a hard candy, a lot of hard candy, and they just suck one after another after another.
“Even the sticky, gooey stuff sticks on their teeth and then if it hangs on, like caramel, stuff like that, it’s just going to retain a long time in their mouths, so of course that’s going to be more damaging.”
Chocolate is an alternative to hard or sticky candy, Loewen said.
“If it’s a chocolate, it’s going to dissolve quickly and be out of there, as opposed to a caramel,” he said. “If they eat a chocolate bar, it dissolves pretty easily and it’s cleared out of the mouth.”
Chocolate is also said to contain antioxidants, although Loewen is quick to say the sugar content far outweighs the possible benefits.
“I would certainly not want to endorse any particular chocolate as better than anything else because they’re all loaded with sugar—they’re all going to be detrimental,” he said. “But in moderation, all these things are not bad.”
Another alternative is gum.
“Gum would be a better thing because even if it’s a sugar gum, if you chew it––unless you’re just sticking a new stick in there when the flavor starts to go away––gum is actually good because it helps clear other things off the teeth,” he said. “And if you chew it for a period of time, it’s going to stimulate saliva flow, which is a good buffer for the sugars.”
Eating too many Halloween treats can cause a stomach ache, said Hillsboro physician Randal Claassen. But one night of candy consumption won’t adversely affect a child’s overall health.
“Our philosophy with our kids is that we really limit their sweet intake, but on Halloween we just let them pig out,” he said. “One time isn’t going to hurt anybody and it’s kind of the party mentality.”
For parents wanting to limit candy intake, Claassen said parents can encourage children to pick out a set number of pieces and save the rest for later.
“Confiscating the bags” is a way for parents to limit candy consumption in the days following Halloween, he said.
“(Kids) are just going to eat (candy) until they’re sick, and obviously that’s unhealthy,” he said. “They’re going to eat it, so limit the number of pieces they can have.”
Claassen also said another way to limit candy intake is to eat a meal before going out to trick-or-treat.
“It’s exactly like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach,” he said. “If you go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you’re going to pick all the bad foods. And if you go Halloweening on an empty stomach, you’re going to eat more candy while you’re out there. If you’re full, you’ll to tend to eat less.
“(A meal) is just volume to fill your kids up and then they’re less likely to eat as much volume of candy because they’re full.
“And of course it dilutes the sugar. If they don’t eat supper and eat a lot of candy, they’re going to get a lot sicker than if they have had supper and eat (the candy).”