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CLASS NOTES – Halloween Facts and Fiction

Soon, ghost and goblins will be playing tricks and eating treats, prancing down neighborhood streets and causing chaotic fun with family and friends. Parents may have some apprehension about letting their little witches and warlocks roam the night because of the continual retelling of myths and urban legends surrounding Halloween.

Reports of razor blades hidden in apples and candy have been haunting parents for decades. These ridiculous and malicious rumors have caused many people to ban trick-or-treating and stop handing out candy treats altogether. The sad fact is the only cases of tampered-candy killing children on Halloween were of relatives poisoning family members on purpose.

I remember my own mom dumping our pillowcases of candy on the kitchen floor, putting on her gardening gloves and meticulously fanning the loot across the tile. She knelt over mini candy bars and popcorn balls, searching for evidence of tampered treats. Inevitably she threw out two or three pieces. I suspect now it was to assure herself that her efforts were not in vain.

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Another common and misguided belief is that excess consumption of sugar-laden candy will make kids hyperactive. We can all agree that devouring mounds of sugar is not good for any of us. Candy is nothing but empty calories and eating too much can lead to bad eating habits, dental cavities and health issues. However, after countless studies, the American Medical Association has found that sugar in the diet does not affect children’s behavior. Most likely it’s not the sweets but the situation that causes kids to throw caution and parental imperatives to the wind.

While the sadistic tales of evil people poisoning our sugar-crazed kids are false, there are some real dangers that can easily be avoided.

We should be concerned about motor vehicle accidents. Roughly four times as many children aged 5-14 are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year.

Make sure drivers can see your child and vice versa. Give kids flashlights and glow sticks. Also, use makeup rather than masks so children have a clear, unobstructed view of their surroundings. Young trick-or-treaters should be accompanied by an adult and all should know to only cross at the crosswalks and stay on the sidewalk.

Nearly 6 million or 8 percent of children have food allergies. To be safe, hand out treats that are free of dairy, wheat and eggs – the most common food allergens. Some options include: Smarties, gum, mints, hard candy or jellybeans. Consider handing out trinkets such as stickers, pencils or coins. Enforce a ‘no eating while trick-or-treating’ policy and pass on candy and treats that do not have ingredients labeled.

To avoid eye injuries, cuts and bruises, use costume knives and swords that are flexible – not rigid or sharp – and make sure children can walk comfortably in their costume.

Don’t worry about unknown or unfounded dangers. Instead, eat, drink and be scary while taking a few precautions to protect your children from the easily averted hazards.

Contact Margaret Lavin at elementarydays@gmail.com.

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