Halloween is a great opportunity for kids to create great memories that will cherish for the rest of their lives—not memories that will haunt them forever, such as experiencing a serious eye injury.
There are indeed several eye-health risks associated with Halloween, but the good news is that it only takes awareness, common sense and perhaps a bit of parental invention to keep the holiday eye-safe.
Here’s a quick list of frightening things that should spook parents come October 31, and what you can do to ward them off.
- Invisibility – Although many neighborhoods have turned trick-or-treating into an afternoon activity, many children will no doubt be heading out in their costumes after the sun has set. A child will lose an impact with an automobile every time, and these impacts can be devastating to the entire body, including the eyes. That’s why one of the most important things parents can do on Halloween is to make sure that drivers can see our kids. This means lighting them up (have them carry a flashlight or wear a light stick) and/or making them reflective, with tape attached to their costumes or sneakers. Don’t let them be invisible out there, even if they are disguised as ghosts!
- Temporary visual impairment caused by some masks – This describes the condition caused by ill-fitting or poorly sized masks. Not being able to see can be as dangerous as not being seen (see “Invisibility” above), but I doubt that ensuring good visibility is a particularly high priority for any mask manufacturer, and it’s not the first thing that attracts young customers to a particular mask, either. Best option: use safe face makeup (see below) in place of a mask. If you can’t do that, test how well your child can see while wearing the mask (pay special attention to peripheral vision) and apply a stern parental veto to any that significantly impede sight.
- Non-prescription contact lenses – These are indeed very scary. The prescription contact lenses millions of us wear everyday are manufactured according to strict guidelines and fitted by trained eye-care professionals. That may not be the case with decorative lenses, which may be made by unlicensed and unregulated companies using ingredients that could be hazardous to eye health. Using poorly made lenses or not handling them properly can lead to eye infections and corneal ulcers, which can result in partial or complete blindness. Here’s an FDA advisory on decorative contact lenses with more information.
- Unsafe face makeup – Halloween makeup is regulated as a cosmetic by the FDA, which pays particular attention to the color additives used in it. Here’s an FDA list that will tell you which color additives are approved for use on the face and, specifically, near the eyes. The makeup you are considering purchasing should have a label that lists the additives used in the product; if the product you are considering has no such label, I’d advise finding a different one. Here are more makeup safety tips from the FDA.)
- Pointy things – Swords, knives, pitchforks, wands and other like objects can cause serious eye injuries – even if they are made out of plastic. Best option: don’t let your kids carry them while trick or treating, during which they will no doubt be waved around. They’ll fight you on that, I’m sure, after all, no would-be Captain Jack Sparrow wants to leave home without his sword. Your next-best option might to say OK, but with the mandate that all these pointy things be kept attached to a belt or in a scabbard.
Here are more tips from the Centers for Disease Prevention to help ensure your kids have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.