Using Halloween to Reinforce Year-Round Health and Safety Habits 

By- Dr. Jonathan WoodThis year, consider using Halloween as an opportunity to discuss a number of global health and safety issues with your children. Yes, several pointed issues certainly all apply to the day itself. But this is also an opportunity to reinforce with your kids that the lessons of Halloween are worth applying to their lives every day of the year.Dental HealthCavities develop as a result of carbohydrates and the associated acids produced bathing the teeth. The total time and frequency of exposure is the key, not necessarily the amount of sugar. The acids remain in the mouth for approx 20 min after a snack or meal. This knowledge supports a number of healthy habits, Halloween-related or not:Candies or foods that bath the mouth for long periods (lollipops, dense sticky candies, etc) engender the greatest riskEating at proscribed meal and snack times, rather than “grazing”, will result in a healthier dental environmentTiming your Halloween candy consumption to around meals will reduce the associated risk of cavitiesSuggesting that kids eat little bits at a time and spread their candy consumption out over time will paradoxically increase their cavity riskEvening and Nighttime SafetyAs your kids prepare to wander the neighborhoods this year, use the holiday to remind them about pedestrian safety. It is especially important to stress that the driver visibility is at its worst during dusk, the time when many trick-or-treaters are out and about.Help your children choose costumes that offer adequate vision and mobilityConsider reflective costumes or at least adding some stick-on reflector materialFlashlights! One hand for the candy bag, one hand for the flashlight…!Review basic road crossing safety and stress the fact that these principles apply year ‘roundUse sidewalks whenever possible.Food AllergiesFor kids with food allergies, Halloween is a good time to review some of the principles of awareness and avoidance. Teach label reading to confirm that ingredients are acceptableUse the time to review the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions due to inadvertent exposureBe aware that “trick-or-treat” size candies occasionally do not contain the exact same ingredients as the full size version General Healthy Behaviors and Global Safety Issues With wood stoves fired up and with Jack-o-lanterns on porches, Halloween offers a context for reviewing fire safety. Also, consider fire safety when choosing costumes.Carving pumpkins offers a setting in which to review knife safety with small children and adolescents alike.Use Halloween to gently review stranger safety. Use the trick-or-treating experience to reinforce simple things like not getting in cars with strangers and not going into strangers’ homes unaccompanied. Halloween can be used to emphasize that most people are good people with good intentions, but that this doesn’t negate the value of prudence and being careful.Use Halloween to talk about peer pressure and mob mentality. For example, reinforce the difference between “tricks” and vandalism. Especially with older kids and adolescents, Halloween can offer an environment for trouble making. Prepare your kids with the means to identify and avoid inappropriate situations. Offering “scripts” for extracting themselves can be very helpful. Most important, discuss simple common sense with your kids. Nothing will serve them better than that! So, arm those kids with essential Halloween equipment (safe costume, good shoes, candy receptacle, flashlight, cell phone) and some common sense. They’ll have fun, learn some things along the way, and have plenty of year ‘round good habits reinforced!