Question of the Week

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 safety. ..."

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:

"Avoid trick-or-treating 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 much safer.

"* 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 were alcohol-related.
* But the nightmare of drinking and driving impaired does not end at the tragic death, disfigurement, disability and injury caused by impaired drivers.
* If you‚re caught and arrested for driving impaired, you face serious consequences and significant costs."
National 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 � 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 the matter.

* 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 they‚re 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.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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