The Biggest Dangers to Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween

Console and Associates, P.C.
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It’s the time of year kids all across America are looking forward to: Halloween. While parties, parades, and carving pumpkins are all part of Halloween fun, trick-or-treating is the main event.

And what’s really scary about it isn’t ghosts and ghouls, but the real risks that put kids in danger.

Trick-or-treating accidents are more common than you think, and they can have serious consequences. Here are the three biggest dangers trick-or-treaters should watch out for on Halloween.

1.   Getting Bitten by a Dog

Doorbells ringing repeatedly, strangers arriving in costumes and masks—it’s no surprise that dogs don’t always love Halloween as much as trick-or-treaters do.

Unfortunately, property owners who are busy setting out candy, tending to decorations, and chatting with costumed visitors may forget to keep their pets safely restrained. Alternatively, they may wrongly assume that a normally friendly pet will do fine under the stress of the unusual situation. A dog owner or property owner can be well-intentioned but still act negligently.

When a dog bites a visitor, especially a child, the damage can be severe. Overall, only about 1 in 5 dog bites cause injuries serious enough to require medical care, according to the National Canine Research Council, but among children, that statistic jumps to 1 in 4. Children make up half of all dog bite victims, according to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Being smaller than adults, children are more likely to suffer bites to areas like the face, head, and neck. A serious dog bite could lead to a hospital stay, surgery, treatment for infections, permanent scarring, and a lifelong fear of dogs.

2.   Tripping Over Decorations

The spooky decorations that make a house one of the highlights of the neighborhood can be scary in a very real way when they pose a tripping hazard. Trip and falls and slip and falls are serious accidents that could leave victims with significant injuries that could have long-term effects on their lives.

Even otherwise conscientious property owners who normally maintain their premises in perfectly safe conditions may lose sight of the dangers when they get caught up in the spirit of the season. They may make dangerously poor decisions that they usually wouldn’t make—like stretching cords and cables across walkways or keeping areas dark to set the atmosphere—that could end up putting trick-or-treaters at risk.

While many people think of senior citizens as being the ones primarily at risk of a fall injury, children are another population that is vulnerable to falls, the World Health Organization reported. Among ages 0 to 19, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fall injuries can be serious enough to prompt Emergency Room visits, keep kids out of commission with sprained or broken limbs, or even cause life-changing injuries to the brain or spinal cord.

3.   Getting Hit by a Car

“10 times more pedestrian fatalities occur on Halloween”

An event in which young children run from house to house in a sugar-fueled frenzy, wearing costumes that may at once limit their eyesight and make them harder to see in the dark, increases the chances of a pedestrian accident.

This isn’t speculation. Halloween is “the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrians,” The Washington Post reported in 2019. As a whole, pedestrians under 18 die in traffic accidents on Halloween at a rate three times higher than usual. Among children in the 4-to-8 age range, specifically, 10 times more pedestrian fatalities occur on Halloween.

According to The Washington Post, the most dangerous time for trick-or-treaters has historically been 6 p.m., when the sun is setting, many motorists are returning home from work, and trick-or-treating is in full swing.

Pedestrian accidents are often devastating, since the victim’s body has nothing to protect them from the force of impact. That’s particularly true for the tiny bodies of small children, who are often knocked to the ground and may suffer skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, and damage to the musculoskeletal system.

Other Trick-or-Treating Risks to Know

Of course, these aren’t the only dangers.

Candles used to light jack-o’-lanterns can pose a risk of burn injuries.

Many reports of poisoned or otherwise dangerous candy being given to trick-or-treaters have turned out to be urban legends, according to CNN, but it’s still wise for a parent to inspect all candy for safety before children eat it.

Allergies to ingredients in candy and other treats, as well as makeup and costume materials, could cause serious and even life-threatening reactions. This is particularly concerning because Halloween may expose young children to new potential allergens they haven’t encountered before, so they may not have EpiPens on hand.

The Frightening Consequences of a Trick or Treat Accident

What’s the worst that can happen when trick-or-treating goes wrong? This normally fun time of year could leave an innocent child with lifelong pain and limitations. In too many situations, a real tragedy occurs amidst the backdrop of plastic skeletons and spooky animatronics.

The types of consequences that can arise from a trick-or-treating injury include:

  • Emergency Room visits
  • Hospitalization
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Surgeries
  • Inpatient and outpatient physical therapy
  • Loss of functions, including the ability to achieve independence
  • Permanent scarring
  • Decrease in quality of life
  • Extensive medical bills, including future medical expenses
  • Decrease in future earning potential, keeping the child from supporting themselves when they reach adulthood
  • In the most serious situations, severe disabilities or tragic deaths

We don’t want to scare parents needlessly, and—fortunately—most children will enjoy trick-or-treating with no significant harm coming to them.

However, the risks are there, so we encourage parents to take precautions such as:

  • Arranging for attentive adult supervision
  • Talking with children about avoiding strange dogs and recognizing dogs’ signs of fear, aggression, anxiety, or territorialism that could indicate the risk of a bite
  • Making sure children are alert to potential tripping hazards
  • Reviewing safe street-crossing behavior with children
  • Making costumes visible by choosing brightly colored or reflective fabrics or using flashlights, glow sticks, and other light sources

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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