La Crosse, Wis. - In all the Halloween excitement, it is easy for children to forget important safety rules as they head out into the night. Whether your children are old enough to go out on their own, or you are going with them, Dr. Joseph Behn, MD, family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska recommends these safety rules are reviewed before leaving:
- Food poisoning is always a concern when it comes to Halloween treats. Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90°F). Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination.
- Children with diabetes can eat candy just like other kids. But the carbohydrates the treats contain should be factored into the child's meal plan for that day and the child's insulin level adjusted accordingly.
- Read candy and food labels carefully. On Halloween, children with food allergies that contain nuts or peanuts result in many emergency room visits. Other common sources of food allergies in kids: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Ask your doctor for a prescription for an epinephrine pen—used in emergency situations to treat food allergy reactions—so you're ready in the event your child consumes something he or she shouldn't.
- All children with asthma should avoid entering people's homes when trick-or-treating, because the presence of pets or smokers can cause an asthma attack. Kids should keep a rescue inhaler in their pocket or trick-or-treat bag in case they experience trouble breathing.
- Look for the warning label to avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products that may have been made on site. When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
- Ration the collected candy to avoid the ‘pig out’ stomachache and cavities. To help prevent children from snacking, give them a light meal or snack before they head out – don’t send them out on an empty stomach.
Behn also reminds parents not to trick or treat too late, inspect all wrapped candy packages before eating them, wear reflective strips on clothes, stick to familiar neighborhoods, and set rules about where you’re going and when you’ll return home. Always have a cell phone with you in case of emergency.