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Tips for a Healthy Halloween from the Tennessee Department of Health

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 | 06:09am

NASHVILLE – Pumpkins on the porch and chatter about costumes can only mean one thing:  Halloween is fast approaching. As party goers and trick-or-treaters plan for a night of fun, the Tennessee Department of Health suggests spending a few minutes thinking about safety and health.

“What was once primarily a children’s holiday has now become an event celebrated by people of all ages,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, TDH director of Family Health and Wellness. “We hope everyone enjoys a safe, fun evening, and to help make sure that happens, we’ve developed a checklist of best Halloween practices.”

• Don’t risk eye damage by wearing decorative contact lenses. Users of these lenses may suffer serious infections and permanent damage to vision, particularly among those who don’t normally wear contacts. It is illegal in Tennessee to sell contacts without a prescription.
• If your costume involves make-up, test it on a small area of your skin prior to Halloween to make sure you won’t have an allergic reaction. Be sure to remove all makeup before going to bed.
• Avoid costumes with masks that restrict vision.
• Avoid long dresses or pants and oversized shoes that make it hard to walk.
• Remember weather can change quickly; some costumes may not provide warmth needed for a chilly night.
• Check costume labels to make sure all pieces are flame resistant.
• Attach reflective tape or blinking lights to costumes.
• Costume accessories such as swords, knives and similar items should be soft and flexible.

• Be alert to dogs that may be protective of their homes or yards. Never give candy to a pet.
• Walk on sidewalks facing oncoming road traffic.
• Hold a flashlight, glow stick or similar lighting device.
• Walk, never run, to avoid the risk of tripping.
• Children should only enter homes if they are with a trusted adult; it’s best not to enter a stranger’s home, even if they invite you inside.
• Don’t walk near luminary devices such as candles or open flames.
• Walk in groups whenever possible.
• Inspect treats for signs of tampering, eat only factory-wrapped treats and stay away from homemade items unless you know the giver. Be mindful some treats can cause choking or allergic reactions.
• After trick-or-treating is done, parents should limit the amount that can be eaten daily.
• Tell children if anyone tries to grab them to yell loudly and draw attention.

• Leave pumpkin carving to an adult. Let young children draw faces on pumpkins with washable markers or child-friendly paint.
• If you’re hosting, offer low-calorie foods emphasizing vegetables, fruits and cheeses, and limit sugary treats and beverages. If you insist on giving candy bars, go with the smallest ones available.
• Remember if you’re hosting a party for adults and plan to have alcohol, make sure no one overindulges. While no one should ever drink and drive, impaired drivers and costumed children in the neighborhood are a particularly dangerous combination.
• If you’re a party guest, enjoy food and beverage in moderation; calories can accumulate quickly. It’s best to eat a healthful meal before going to the party so you won’t graze on sweets or other calorie-laden treats.
• Keep pets away from guests; even the most docile ones can become frightened and defensive among costumed revelers.
• Instead of candy for party favors, consider toys, bags of pretzels, temporary tattoos, boxed raisins, trail mix, etc. Stay away from items that could cause choking if small children are invited.
• If your child comes home with a bag of candy, consider offering to buy some from him or her. That could help combat weight gain and give a little one a fun lesson with earning money.

“The reason so many of us have good memories of childhood Halloween events is because our parents or other responsible adults looked out for us,” Warren said. “It’s time now for us to look out for others, making sure observers of all ages have a safe and healthy evening. With just a little extra thought and planning, we’ll generate some more positive memories this year.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit

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