Halloween, a day known most for spooks and scares, is fast approaching. However, many parents are haunted not by the ghosts of a malignant spirit but by the thought of the imminent sugar high (and accompanying crash), toothaches, and cavities that a mountain of candy may bring. Parents also worry about their children’s safety on the spookiest day of the year – so much so that some parents are forgoing traditional house-to-house trick-or-treating altogether, in a trend called “trunk-or-treating.”
On October 20, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its tips for a safe Halloween. This year, the FDA has sought to warn parents about potentially dangerous costumes, candy, and novelty contact lenses.
The FDA warns parents to ensure that any costume their child wears is marked as “flame resistant,” that costume material is bright and reflective or that reflective tape is added so children are more visible to drivers, and that costumers aren’t so long that children trip on the material. The FDA also recommends that hats or makeup are preferable to masks, as masks can obscure vision. The agency’s notice warns parents to make sure that any makeup used contains FDA-approved ingredients and that it doesn’t cause an allergy (test this by applying a small amount of makeup to the arm of the person who will be wearing it).
The FDA notice specifically calls out the potential dangers of decorative and colored contact lenses that have not been approved by the agency. These lenses, that are designed to change the wearer’s eye color, make eyes glow in the dark, or create the illusion of vertical “cat eyes,” can cause vision damage or even blindness, according to the FDA. If one does not usually wear contact lenses, it may not be safe to do so for a costume without an examination and prescription from an eye care professional. The FDA has a page dedicated to the downsides of novelty contact lenses, which can be seen here.
Finally, the FDA addresses what for many is the best part of Halloween – candy. The FDA advises against consuming any candy before it has been inspected to ensure it is safe, and that includes having a snack before trick-or-treating to reduce the temptation to snack on candy throughout the Halloween evening. Other advice is to not eat candy that isn’t commercially wrapped or that appears to be tampered with. While it pays to be vigilant, it should be noted that there haven’t been any confirmed cases of dangerous people tampering with candy. Besides issuing warnings about the possibility of tainted treats and contaminated candy, the FDA advises parents to be aware of potential allergens, choking hazards such as small toys or hard candy, and to avoid serving unpasteurized juices at Halloween parties. Washing apples before they are used in a “bobbing for apples” activity is also recommended.
Read the FDA’s full guide on a safe and healthy Halloween here.