Avoid a Scary Visit to the ER with 7 Tips for Safe Trick-or-Treating

Male doctor wearing bacon costume for Halloween posing with another male doctor
Dr. Bansal and Dr. Mark Lockett, another pediatric ER physician at Coliseum Medical Centers, dressed as bacon for Halloween festivities.

Trick-or-treating is a time-honored Halloween tradition for many people in the United States and abroad. And tonight, hundreds of children will take to the streets, ringing doorbells and looking for something sweet to eat. But before your ghosts, ghouls and goblins head out the door, Dr. Mickey Bansal, medical director for pediatric emergency medicine at HCA Healthcare-affiliated Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital, has a few tips to keep your little one safe and injury free.

“We see a lot of orthopedic injuries in the ER after Halloween festivities,” Dr. Bansal said. “The most common are ankle and wrist sprains, fractures and lacerations. As a kid in Cincinnati, I distinctly remember running through yards with my pillow case full of candy and falling. So, those types of injuries are at the top of the list on Halloween, for sure.”

Here are seven ways to help your kid have a ghostly good time and avoid a trip to the ER:

Use sidewalks. Walk up the driveway to the house appropriately. Meaning, don’t cut through dark yards or terrain that are unfamiliar. “Last year, we had an injury where kids were running through a back yard and there was a creek they couldn’t see,” Dr. Bansal recalled. “They started falling into the water, which was shallow, but they still sustained cuts to their knees.”

Try well-lit areas. Do not approach houses that are not well lit. There’s a reason the lights are off; they may not be welcoming of trick-or-treaters. Make sure to have a flashlight and reflective clothing on your kids’ costume, too, especially if they’re young.

Wear comfortable shoes. A lot of costumes come with their own shoes that are not conducive for kids or comfort. And there will be lots of walking, so put them in comfortable shoes.

Ration the candy. You may be surprised to hear that we see a lot of belly pain visitors after kids start to eat all of their Halloween candy. As the saying goes, “less is more.” Also, look through the candy with children and throw away any opened pieces.

Watch out for cars. “The sad part of Halloween is that every year, there are critical injuries and even pediatric deaths from kids being hit by vehicles,” Dr. Bansal said.

  • Choose costumes that you can put lights or reflective tape on like runners or bicyclists.
  • Always have flashlights so kids can see and be seen.
  • Take a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Always have adult supervision. Do not depend on the teenage siblings to take the younger children out trick-or-treating.

Watch out for kids. Be wary and drive slower on Halloween night. Some neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, so young trick-or-treaters are going to walk on the road and naturally run across the street. Costumes can appear dark and you may not be able to see the child whatsoever. So, be careful, slow down and watch out for children on the roadway.

Lay off the BOO-ze. Parents should avoid alcohol so they can observe their children appropriately.

“Halloween is a fun time for everyone,” Dr. Bansal said. “We put on costumes and enjoy ourselves, too – we’re pediatricians! That’s what we like to do. We also want everyone to be careful out there tonight. Following a few simple precautions, just might help you and your loved one avoid a trip to the ER.”

Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital, a part of HCA Healthcare’s South Atlantic Division, serves the Middle Georgia communities of Macon, Ga. The Coliseum Health System recently celebrated its one-year anniversary of a pediatric ER and have met the needs of thousands of pediatric patients.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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