Halloween 2008 News Tips Extra!

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

A few precautions can help keep Halloween safe, fun 

Trick-or-treaters: When making plans for Halloween fun, be sure to include safety precautions in the evening’s line-up, says Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Parents should make sure that the costumes fit properly. If the length of the costume is too long, children may trip and fall,” Dr. Pepe says. “Also, consider using make-up rather than masks to keep vision optimal.”

Dr. Pepe also recommends the following tips for a safer Halloween:

  • Wear only flame-retardant costumes and, if outside at night, make sure the costumes are bright and have reflectors.
  • Carry a light, strobe or other device so you can be seen after dark.
  • Travel in a group with adult supervision; make sure an adult chaperone is carrying a cell phone in case of an emergency; use the buddy system.
  • Plan your route to avoid busy intersections and poorly lit areas.
  • Go only to neighborhoods you know; avoid strangers’ houses; beware of unfamiliar pets.
  • Never eat unwrapped treats.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto 

How your little monsters can avoid skin rashes

Halloween dress up can be irritating for those with sensitive skin, says Dr. Sarah Weitzul, a cosmetic dermatologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Kids and adults should be sure to wash off their makeup, paints and color from clothing at the end of the night to avoid irritation and breakouts,” says Dr. Weitzul.

To help goblins and ghouls avoid day-after rashes, Dr. Weitzul recommends:

  • Avoid wearing masks and costumes that transfer color onto the skin.
  • Avoid tight clothing and occlusive fabrics which can cause friction, irritation, and heat rash.
  • Try to use water-based make-up, which is easier to remove than oil-based versions.
  • Those prone to acne should avoid oil-based makeup. Those with sensitive skin should avoid alcohol-based products.
  • Avoid home concoctions like food coloring and corn oil.

If a rash develops, try an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. If the condition persists or worsens, see a doctor.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Parents: If trick-or-treating scares your children, don’t force it

Fear can be a thrilling sensation for some kids, especially on Halloween, but parents should not push unwilling children into fear-inducing situations such as trick-or-treating, says Dr. Peter Stavinoha, a neuropsychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“We might think they will have fun, or we might remember having fun ourselves as children; however, it can be detrimental to a child to be placed unnecessarily in a fear situation,” he says. “The child may not have that basic level of trust that everything will be OK. This might seem irrational to adults, but it can quickly turn into a true panic situation for a child.”

If a child is scared to go trick-or-treating, Dr. Stavinoha recommends the following:

  • A parent should offer to tag along.
  • Go trick-or-treating before dark and carry a flashlight.
  • Plan alternative activities, such as movie night at home or a Halloween party.

Above all, don’t force the issue. “If a child fears trick-or-treating, that is really not a big deal,” Dr. Stavinoha says.

Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson

Halloween goodies can be good for your kids

If entertaining young ghosts and goblins this Halloween, why not try some healthy alternatives to all those chocolate bars and candy treats?

With only a limited amount of preparation time and creativity, parents can offer such goodies as: apple wedges dipped in caramel sauce, celery sticks with peanut butter, ants on a log (frozen bananas topped with raisins), pretzels dipped in chocolate, or snack cereal drizzled with melted chocolate or peanut butter and lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar.

“Try something that’s nutritious, but presented with a little extra twist so as to make it more appealing to kids,” says Terry Brown, a registered dietician at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

For healthier handout treats, she suggests small packages of raisins, goldfish crackers, pretzels, trail mix, nuts, fruit roll-ups or granola bars.

In addition, it’s a good idea to ration the amount of candy a child eats at one time, Ms. Brown says. Placing a small amount of candy in a plastic bag for a special treat can help kids determine how much is enough, she says.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

Allergic to peanuts? Better check those candy labels

Peanut allergy sufferers should take a moment to read ingredient lists before digging into Halloween candy, says Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Some of the goodies could contain peanuts, peanut byproducts or be made in areas with other peanut-containing foods.

“The allergy community continues to work with the Food and Drug Administration to improve product labeling,” Dr. Gruchalla says. “However, while labeling is getting better, peanut allergen-contamination of nonpeanut containing foods is still a possibility.”

Peanut or tree nut allergies affect approximately 3 million Americans — roughly 8 percent of children aged 6 and under and 1 percent to 2 percent of adults — and cause the most severe food-induced allergic reactions, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Approximately 100 Americans, usually children, die annually from food-induced allergic reaction, NIAID officials report.

Dr. Gruchalla recommends that peanut-sensitive holiday revelers avoid homemade snacks and stick to hard candy and well-known treats that don’t list peanut products among the ingredients. Also, do some research before eating off-brand foods or fun-size candy without an ingredient list. Contact the manufacturing company or log on to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Web site at www.foodallergy.org for more peanut information.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

Avoid sweet tooth growth during Halloween outings

Although kids relish the sheer tonnage of candy they can collect in a single Halloween night, parents should set limits on the sugar intake, both for their children and themselves, says Lona Sandon, a nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“A good rule of thumb would be no more than three bite-size candies or one fun-size candy bar,” she says. “And keep the treats to just a few times per week. Also, set some rules on when the candy can be eaten such as only as a dessert, after lunch or dinner, not before meals.”

Ms. Sandon adds that parents should set the example by limiting their candy intake.

“Parents should start by only buying the amount of candy needed for the trick-or-treaters,” she says. “Avoid grabbing an extra bag and avoid those 50 percent off candy sales after the holidays.” 

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Don’t throw out the meat and seeds of a carved pumpkin

Before throwing out the meat and seeds of a carved Halloween pumpkin chew on this: Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium, and the seeds are high in fiber, vitamin B12 and polyunsaturated fatty acids, one of the so-called good fats.

“The flesh of pumpkin and the seeds are abundant in many essential nutrients,” says Lona Sandon, a nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Pumpkins are low in fat, calories and are loaded with vitamins.” 

If you are planning to use fresh pumpkin for baking, Sandon says, choose smaller, blemish- and bruise-free pumpkins. Smaller pumpkins have softer and tastier meat. To maintain freshness, pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dry place until ready to use. 

And don’t forget to oven roast the seeds. They are ideal as snacks or as a salad topping.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear


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