3 Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

OCTOBER 17, 2016
Halloween is a great time for pharmacists to educate the community about safety strategies. From candy inspection to decorative contact lens dangers, these 3 counseling points are sure to be useful to help families enjoy a safe Halloween.

1. Inspect all candy
Educate parents to inspect all candy to ensure that it’s commercially wrapped and that there are no signs of tampering. Signs of tampering include an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Additionally, parents should also check labels to ensure that there are no food allergens present. Parents of young children should remove any potential choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys. Advise parents to program the Poison Help number 1-800-222-1222 in their cellular phone to contact in the event they suspect that their child has consumed a candy containing a drug. This is a free service available to the public 24/7 with health care professionals trained in responding to poison emergencies.

2. Provide a safe Halloween party atmosphere
If you’re hosting a Halloween party, it’s important to provide a safe and healthy atmosphere for everyone. Check with parents about food allergies to avoid adverse reactions. Also, it’s extremely important to place all medications and other potential hazards (eg, laundry detergent) out of reach from children, preferably in locked areas.

It’s also important to practice food safety to prevent foodborne illness. Always serve pasteurized products because unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella.1 Also, keep all perishable foods chilled until serving time. Educate parents not to leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.1

3. Avoid decorative contact lenses from illegal establishments that don’t require a prescription
Costume or decorative contact lenses are any type of contact lenses meant to change the appearance of the eyes. Nonprescription contact lens sales are illegal, and many websites have the claims stating “one size fits all” and “no need to see an eye specialist.”2 Contact lenses are classified as medical devices, so it’s important to only use FDA-approved lenses that require a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist to be sold. Nonprescription decorative lenses can cause scratches on the cornea, corneal infection, and conjunctivitis. Additionally, they can cause a bacterial infection known as keratitis that can lead to permanent vision loss.

The FDA has issued a warning to never buy decorative lenses from the following establishments that are not authorized distributors3:
  • Street vendors
  • Salons or beauty supply stores
  • Boutiques
  • Flea markets
  • Novelty stores
  • Halloween stores
  • Record or video stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Beach shops
  • Internet sites that don’t require a prescription
Pharmacists can provide these safety tips for parents through communitywide education programs, such as local schools and health fairs. 

  1. FDA website. Halloween food safety tips for parents. www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm187021.htm.
  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Colored contact lenses. aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/colored-lenses.
  3. FDA webiste. “Colored” and decorative contact lenses: a prescription is a must. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm275069.htm.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2