Young-Jin Sue, MD, a pediatric emergency room physician at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, offers the following practical advice that will allow parents to relish the holiday as much as their kids.
Small candies can be choking hazards
Small and hard candies will likely land in most children's bags this Halloween, and parents should be aware that they may pose either of two types of choking hazards: asphyxiation and aspiration.
Asphyxiation hazards are small, roundish, firm objects which can completely block a child's airway, leading to immediate, life-threatening effects.
"These include non-food items such as small toys and edible items including sourballs, gumballs, nuts, and even some firm foods like apples," says Dr. Sue
Aspiration hazards are small, firm objects such as jelly beans, gummy bears, Skittles, Smarties, Spree, gum, or licorice pieces that are smaller than the airway diameter.
These candies may be too small to become lodged at the larynx, but can pass into the trachea, with serious consequences.
"An aspiration hazard can lead to persistent discomfort ranging from difficulty breathing to pneumonia from aspiration onto the bronchi," explains Dr. Sue
Safer choices include any treats that crumble readily and/or melt easily, including most cookies, most chocolates (except for peanut and almond M&Ms), peppermint patties, and peanut butter cups.
When it comes to lollipops, a perennial Halloween favorite, Dr. Sue
advises parents to consider their child's developmental abilities, health and temperament.
"Some children suck patiently on their pops while others bite them off the stick; some sit quietly as they enjoy their confections while others run around at breakneck speed or engage in wrestling," she
"In general, kids should always eat while sitting still, not running around or wrestling with siblings or friends."
Different types of pops pose varying levels of choking hazards.
Flat ones are generally safer, but blow-pops might pose problems.
"It's not difficult to imagine that a blow-pop bitten off the stick could lead to choking, never mind the bubble gum at its center," says Dr. Sue
Examine your kids' goodies
If parents want to be sure the candy in their kids' Halloween bags is safe, they should consider trick-or-treating only at houses of friends.
Once at home, parents should carefully examine every piece of candy before allowing their kids to indulge.
"Have your kids empty out their bags for examination before allowing them to eat anything," says Dr. Sue
The key, says Dr. Sue
, is for parents to exercise good judgment in light of their children's individual temperaments, developmental levels, allergies and general health.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween!