Tips for a Ghoulishly Good Time

It’s spooky season! Halloween is here and the time has come for trick-or-treaters and kooky costumes.

We want everyone to enjoy the fall festivities tonight and be safe doing it, so here are some tips for a ghoulishly good time from the Massachusetts General Hospital Public Affairs Office.


Michael Flaherty, DO

Pedestrian injuries are the most common injury to children on Halloween night. Parents can help their children be safe by ensuring they wear light and bright costumes with reflective material or tape and have flashlights with fresh batteries. Parents should always accompany younger children during trick-or-treating, and always travel in groups on well-lit streets or sidewalks. Trick-or-treaters should only visit well-lit homes and avoid taking candy or treats from people on the street or in cars.

-Michael Flaherty, DO, MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) critical care physician and injury prevention researcher


Stephanie Harshman, PhD, RD, LD

Halloween is centered around scares and sweets, but parents should be mindful when it comes to candy. The haunted holiday is a special occasion, so a few extra bites are understandable. Opt for popcorn snack bags, wrapped fig bars and trail mix bags, but be thoughtful of food allergies and ask a child’s parent before handing out nut-based products. Consider donating the acquired candy to charitable military programs that ship care packages to deployed troops. Dental offices and police stations often host exchanges where candy is swapped with toothbrushes, coupons and monetary incentives.

-Stephanie Harshman, PhD, RD, LD, research fellow in the Neuroendocrine Division and clinical dietitian at MGHfC

Culturally Conscious Costuming

Deb Washington, PhD, RN

The spirit of Halloween is to have fun and take on a different character, like an astronaut or Elmo. Parents should be mindful, however, when costuming their child and avoid choices that could hurt or harm others. Some costumes have a distinctive style that borrows from a particular culture. It is important to respect that culture’s origin, story and garb while refraining from devaluing their history. Everyone has a unique background and we need to respect this.

-Deb Washington, PhD, RN, Diversity Program, Nursing & Patient Care Services

Food Allergies

Michael Pistiner, MD

The pillars of food allergy management are prevention and preparedness. These must always be in place, especially on Halloween. Don’t be tricked by treats. “Mini candies” may have different ingredients than larger versions, so parents should read each specific label. It can be hard investigating on the go, so consider waiting to eat candy until there is an opportunity to read labels and wash hands. Be prepared for a possible reaction – an epinephrine auto-injector should be kept in the hands of a trained person who can administer it and have a cell phone readily available. Discuss your child’s food allergies with your group so they can help monitor.

-Michael Pistiner, MD, director of Food Allergy Awareness, Education and Prevention, MGHfC Food Allergy Center

Sensory Sensitivities

Rachel Goldin, PhD

Halloween can be a fun holiday but also challenging for many children with
autism spectrum disorder. Preparation can help make Halloween as successful as possible. Preview what to expect and practice interactions such as saying, “trick or treat” and “thank you.” Have your child try on their costume ahead of time to make sure they feel comfortable and have time to get used to it and consider a costume that fits over their regular clothing. On Halloween, know your child’s limits and start slow. Bring coping items to support their needs if they feel overwhelmed, such as noise canceling headphones, a flashlight and a change of clothing.

-Rachel Goldin, PhD, psychologist in the Lurie Center for Autism

This article was originally published in MGH Hotline

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