Beautiful Illiniwek Park near Hampton, Ill., beckoned the Tackett family one recent autumn day as the foursome took advantage of the sunny October weather for a hike in the woods.
A healthy family activity such as that - suggested by Jeni Tackett, a nutrition specialist at Trinity Bettendorf - could be the perfect antidote during a month that ends with one of those holidays which prominently features candy.
"All we needed was walking sticks and a bottle of water," she said
Halloween, on the other hand, brings up a few health concerns, she said, as parents try to oversee activities in which children eat more candy than usual.
"But we are parents. We can limit the candy that our children consume," she added.
Halloween night activities most concern Keene Hart, the injury prevention coordinator for Genesis Medical Center- Illini Campus, Silvis, Ill. Hart, a paramedic, also coordinates the Quad-Cities Safe Kids Coalition.
Pedestrian-related accidents are more common on Halloween night, he said, since the event leads to an unusual number of children on the streets and dressed up in costumes.
Hart remembers one near-tragic incident he witnessed as a paramedic: "A child ran across a street and a car was coming. Luckily, he wasn't driving too fast. The driver didn't have time to react, but he slammed on the brakes.
The child hit the front of the car. They called us and the child wasn't badly injured. But it really scared the drivers and the parents.
"Drivers can't see the costumes very well and the kids are in a hurry and excited," he added. "They are having fun, and sometimes they get carried away and don't use common safety sense when crossing the street."
Prepping for trick-or-treating
Here are some tips from Tackett and Healthyroads, the wellness subsidiary of American Specialty Health, to try before going out trick-or-treating or to be kinder to those who come ringing your doorbell:
- Activities that promote healthy eating are helpful, Tackett said. One school party she knows of offers fruit choices instead of candy. "They don't need to have candy at every single event," she added.
- Instead of handing out candy, treats might include alternatives such as glow bracelets, stickers, temporary tattoos, face paint, crayons, markers or Silly String. Other Halloween-healthy treats are pretzels, low-fat popcorn balls, low-fat fig bars, sugar-free hot cocoa or hot apple cider.
- Stay full. Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch to give yourself a good base, Tackett said.
- Set limits. The negative aspects of the "fun-size" candy bars can add up quickly. "If you eat enough of them, they add up to more than one regular candy bar," Tackett said. "Be aware of what you put in your mouth."
On Halloween night
Here are trick-or-treat safety tips provided by Hart and Safe Kids USA:
- Cross streets safely at corners. Use traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don't run, across the street.
- Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
- Slow down and stay alert. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up, and never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- Costumes can be creative and safe. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors. Masks can obstruct a child's vision, so choose nontoxic face paint and makeup whenever possible. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better and to be seen more easily by drivers.
Tips for drivers
These suggestions for drivers on Halloween are provided by the Safe Kids Coalition and Fed Ex:
- Slow down in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours range between 4 and 8 p.m. in the Quad-City region.
- Be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, and on median strips and curbs. Children are excited about Halloween and move in unpredictable ways.
- Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
- Reduce distractions inside your vehicle such as talking on your cell phone or eating. Concentrate on the roadway and your surroundings.
"The main thing is for drivers to be extra, extra cautious," Hart said.