Trick-or-Treatment: When Halloween Fun Leads to Injury


Halloween has the fourth highest emergency room visits compared with other holidays.

Halloween has been around for 2000 years, drawing people of all ages to join in on the festivities, whether it involves carving pumpkins, attending costume-themed parties, or trick-or-treating around local neighborhoods.

But amidst the decorations and celebrations is the increased risk for injuries and, in some cases, even death, prompting visits to urgent care centers, retail clinics, and the emergency room. In aninfographiccreated bySafe Kids Worldwide, three-fourths of parents reported fears over the safety of their children on Halloween, but only one-third talked to their children about the holiday annually.

Among the major concerns were child pedestrian injury, poisoning from tampered or spoiled treats, abductions, falls, burns, and broken bones, according toMedscape. From 2011 to 2013, over a 3-day period around Halloween, theUS Fire Administrationestimated 10,300 fires were reported to fire departments in the United States, which caused an estimated 25 deaths, 125 injuries, and $83 million in property loss.

For child pedestrian accidents,State Farmteamed up with Sperling’s BestPlaces to analyze more than 4 million records in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1990 to 2010 for children 0 to 18-years-old on Halloween. They found that Halloween was the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrian accidents, with 115 child pedestrian fatalities occurring on Halloween during this time period.

More than 70% of accidents occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk, and most of the fatalities occurred in children 12- to 15-years old, followed by children 5- to 8-years-old. Drivers who posed the greatest risk were under age 25, accounting for nearly one-third of all fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween.

Fortunately, each of the last 6 years of the study (2005-2010) saw a decline in Halloween child fatalities, which were below the 21-year average of 5.5. In a study published inPediatrics, as reported by theAmerican Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons(AAOS), Halloween is the holiday with the fourth highest number of emergency department visits.

Finger and hand injuries accounted for the greatest proportion of injuries at 17.6%. Of the finger and hand injuries sustained on Halloween, 33.3% were lacerations and 20.1% were fractures.

“The most common Halloween injuries we see are severe hand injuries from pumpkin carving and leg and extremity injuries due to falls from long costumes and/or costumes that impair vision,” said Kevin G. Shea, MD, AAOS spokesperson. “It’s a scary thing when individuals are ill equipped with safety rules such as wearing dark costumes without reflectors, or using the wrong tools to carve a pumpkin. By familiarizing yourself with safety tips, you decrease your changes for injuries.”

This year, Halloween should be no different, therefore retail clinics and urgent care centers should expect the influx of patients during this time. To help minimize injuries sustained during this holiday, health care professionals should remind parents to equip their child with reflective tape and flashlights, costumes that fit to prevent falls, test face paints first to prevent allergic reactions, and talk to their child about safety, such as crossing the street and using crosswalks.

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