Halloween is definitely a holiday for fun and imagination — including scary costumes for kids and scary myths for their parents. Here are four myths that are definitely NOT true.
Excess consumption of sugar-laden candy will make kids hyperactive.
This popular belief has a life of its own, and despite many well-designed studies showing that sugar does not cause hyperactivity, this myth also seems to have a life more invincible than your favorite vampire. Sugar does not cause hyperactivity. I repeat: sugar does not cause hyperactivity.
When kids are hyper at special occasions like birthday parties, it is not the sweets that are revving them up, but the situation itself — the excitement, the lack of structure, the novel environment, the influence of other kids, and the deviation from familiar routines and schedules. To the extent that sugar may reflect empty calories nutritionally and lead to dental cavities, there are good health reasons to limit sugar intake in general. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with kids indulging in sweets once a year.
It is not safe to eat candy given by strangers since there are many reports of children being poisoning by candy laced with illicit drugs, cyanide, strychnine, or other toxic chemicals.
Interestingly, most reported cases of tampered candy are perpetrated by individuals seeking to attract publicity — either as the victim or as the one who identified the poison. Although there have been 2 cases of deaths related to poisoning of Halloween candy, in both cases, the victim was a family member of the source of the poisoned candy. For a fascinating summary of the various cases first reported as Halloween poisonings and later proven otherwise, I encourage readers to visit Snopes: “Poisoned Halloween Candy”. This myth notwithstanding, common sense suggests that concerned parents should check over the candy and other treats and discard any items that are not individually wrapped or whose appearance is otherwise concerning.
Many children have been seriously injured by razor blades or needles in fruit or candy
This fear has also taken on a life of its own despite how rare these events have occurred. One science website points out that a child has a better chance of getting hit by a car than finding a razor blade in his or her Halloween goodies, and a sociology professor who is an expert on the subject of Halloween poisoning says that there is not a single documented case of a razor blade being found in an apple. Most if not all reported cases turn out to be hoaxes. Nonetheless, this urban legend lives on. Tempting as it may be to give children fresh fruit, parents remain so concerned about the possibility of tampering that they will not allow their child to consume fresh fruit given out on Halloween and they will not give it out themselves for fear it will just be discarded. I am not suggesting that parents buck this trend, but it should be comforting to know that there are virtually no reports of random poisoning/tampering with of candy or other treats.
Halloween puts young children at the mercy of pedophiles.
Although our culture has increased concerns about “stranger-danger”, it is reported that there has never been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating. There are likely many reasons for this — including close parental supervision, trick-or-treating in groups, laws in some states for Halloween that impose strict curfews on convicted sex offenders and prohibit them from opening their door to trick-or-treaters. In a recent study of 67,000 sex offenses over a 9-year period, children were not found to be at any greater risk for sexual assault at Halloween time. Parents should keep in mind that most sexual assaults on children are perpetrated by someone the child or the family knows.
So what should parents worry about?
- Motor vehicle accidents: children are twice as likely to get killed by a car while walking on Halloween as on any other night. A flashlight, glow stick, or reflective tape can minimize the risk of an injury as a pedestrian.
- Food allergies (peanuts and other allergens)
- Allergic reactions to face paint or make-up
- Flammable costumes
- Eye injuries (costume swords, daggers, and other sharp objects)
- If your child is wearing a mask, make sure it allows for good peripheral vision
For a list of many other safety tips on Halloween, go to The Halloween Safety Guide.
What are you doing to make sure your children have a fun and safe Halloween? Share your tips with the Parenting Community.