Child Safety at Halloween

Don’t spoil one night of fun with a lifetime of injury.

Prevention of injuries is key.

Stay safe and enjoy Halloween.

And remember - watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger.

Personal Safety

Young children should always have a responsible adult escorting them door-to-door on Halloween night.

Talk to your child about the safety risks associated with Halloween and tell them how to lessen the risks.

If your child has a mobile phone, make sure they have it in their possession when they go out, that it is charged and has credit so they can ring for help if needed.

Remind children about "stranger danger" and the importance of not talking to people they do not know. This also means skipping houses that do not have lights on and never trick or treating at strangers' houses.

Teach your child not to approach any animals at Halloween as even animals that are normally calm and friendly and known to the person can often attack when frightened by noises such as fireworks.

Keep in contact with older friends, neighbours and relatives - remember Halloween can be a frightening time for some people.

Teach your child to respect other people's well-being, safety and peace of mind.

Costumes, masks and wigs

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) advises:

  • that children’s costumes are classified as toys so you should look for the CE mark when you are buying them. All masks, wigs and other similar Halloween costume accessories should also have a visible CE mark.
  • Swords, devil forks and other costume accessories should be made of soft flexible material.
  • If you are buying props for your child’s costume these may not be classified as toys and therefore may not be safe for your child.
  • Make sure the props and toys your child is using this Halloween are suitable. Some children, particularly those under the age of three, may be more vulnerable, particularly to choking due to the presence of small detachable parts and some props may be unsuitable for them.

To prevent falls, make sure your child’s costume fits well, isn’t too long and does not have too much loose fabric.

Face painting is often a safer choice for trick-or-treaters than a mask which can block or obscure vision - make sure your child is not allergic to any of the face paint ingredients.  The CCPC recommends that if you are buying face paints which are marketed at children (for example have a picture of the child on the packaging) then they should have a CE mark. Always check the packaging displays clear ingredients in English.

Dress for the weather, so your child and you are comfortable and warm.

All costumes, masks and wigs should be flame resistant.

Preventing burns

Costumes

As above, make sure all costumes masks and wigs are flame resistant.

Make sure children are wearing "normal" clothes under the costume, so that some protection may be given if the costume catches fire.

If somebody catches fire, they should do the 'stop, drop and roll' drill - stop what they're doing, get on the ground and roll. Allow the ground, and not a person's hands, to suffocate the fire.

Remember - devastating injuries can be caused if costumes catch fire. Strictly Come Dancing's Claudia Winkleman relives the moment her daughter's costume caught fire - "We couldn't put her out. Her tights had melted into her skin......It was like those horrific birthday candles that you blow out and then they come back."

Candles and novelty lights

Avoid lighting candles for Halloween around your home - this will reduce opportunity for your child's costume to catch fire.  

Remember, if using novelty Halloween lights, check that they have a visible CE mark and have full contact details of the manufacturer and importer.

Fireworks, sparklers and bonfires:

Every year children get firework and bonfire related injuries and some are scarred for life.

To be safest, plan family fun and activities that don’t include fireworks and do not allow children attend unsupervised bonfires.

Be cautious even at supervised bonfires. You never know when someone might throw something into the bonfire unknown to the supervisors that could be highly flammable or toxic and which could cause serious injuries.

Children should never hold lit sparklers as they can burn as hot as 700oC and will not go out even when doused in water. 

Under 2006 legislation, if you ignite a firework or cause it to be ignited in any place, you are guilty of an offence (unless you are a licensed operator).

The offence of igniting a firework can apply to any location, including the garden of a private house.

30% of injuries are caused by illegal or homemade fireworks.

Water or the appropriate fire extinguisher should always be nearby when fireworks (which should only be used by licensed operators) and bonfires are being used.

The Dublin Fire Brigade Service urges everyone to do everything possible to make sure Halloween is enjoyed in a safe environment. Watch their YouTube clip here.

Be Safe - Be Seen whilst Trick or Treating:

Be safe:

  • Parents need to accompany young children while they are trick or treating.
  • Note that the Road Safety Authority advises that no child under the age 12 years should be allowed cross the road or cycle on the road without adult supervision.
  • Consider ‘trick-or-treating’ in a group and staying together.
  • Don’t forget to: stop, look, listen and look again before crossing the road.

Be seen:

The evenings are dark this time of year - make sure that motorists can see you clearly:

  • Both adults and children should wear high-vis vests when out trick or treating - remember children can easily remove their vest when they arrive at each house and slip it back on again before moving onto the next one.
  • Adults and children should also carry a torch.
  • Stay on footpaths and driveways.
  • Stay off lawns and gardens.
  • Avoid poorly lit areas.

Check treats thoroughly

  • Before eating treats, make sure that they are all checked by a responsible adult.
  • Discard treats that aren’t in sealed packaging or look suspicious.
  • Does your child have any allergies?
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Choking

Choking occurs most frequently among children under two years of age, but choking can happen at any age.

Food advice for children under 5 years of age:

  • Do not give them popcorn, marshmallows, boiled (hard) sweets, chewing gum or nuts.
  • Grate raw carrots or apples.
  • Children have died after choking on whole grapes - always cut grapes into half lengthways and then cut into quarters.  This is very important as the fruit could otherwise totally block a child's airway in a choking incident.
  • Cut cherry tomatoes and similar shaped soft fruits into quarters or smaller.  The fruit could otherwise totally block a child's airway in a choking incident.
  • Remove or peel skins from sausages or hotdogs and cut lengthways into small pieces (at least as small as your child’s small fingernail).
  • Use thick pastes like nut butter or chocolate spread very sparingly and spread evenly and thinly onto bread.
  • Children at any age should sit down whilst eating - remember eating while playing, running, jumping, etc can lead to a choking episode. 

Keep small objects, button batteries, magnets, small parts of jewellery and toys, coins, balloons, elastic and loom bands, under-sized soothers/dummies, inedible items in food products and marbles out of sight and reach of children.

Make sure that your child plays only with age-appropriate toys - to reduce the risk of choking on toys or bits of toys.

Never put jewellery of any kind (incl teething necklaces) on a child under three years of age - both the jewellery itself and bits coming off of it could be a choking risk.

Never place hair bands, clips or hair ties on your baby.

Only adults should inflate balloons and children should be supervised around balloons.

Slow down and watch for pedestrians

Motorists are advised to slow down and drive with extra caution this Halloween:

  • Children may be difficult to see if wearing dark costumes.
  • Remember, children can be unpredictable! They can dash across a roadway without giving any indication of their intention.
  • Watch for children running out between parked cars.

Pets and other animals:

  • The DSCPA has lots of useful information to help keep pets safe over Halloween.  
  • Remind children not to frighten or annoy pets and other animals.
  • Remember, chocolate is very bad for pets - explain this to children and remind them not to share their Halloween sweets or chocolate with their pets. 
  • Keep lighted candles out of reach of pets and don't leave your pet alone in a room with a lighted candle - they could burn themselves or knock it over, starting a fire.

Be a good role model for your children: act safely and responsibly this Halloween.

Information adapted from:
HSE Ambulance Service, 2011 and Advice from Ms Brenda Shannon, HSE Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Officer, 2017

Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:

Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger