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Halloween Myths We Can Stop Heeding Right Now

Who doesn’t love a good scare? ‘Tis the spooky season, after all! Carved pumpkins, mysterious corn mazes, horror flick marathons – all these October traditions can be a great way to get in the mood for Halloween. Something that lives on from year to year, however, that’s not as fun: perpetuating the largely false narrative about children receiving tampered Halloween candy. I’m not saying it never has or never could happen, but I’ve never seen it in my experience as both a doctor and as a parent.

The paranoia surrounding food tampering has been around since we began to rely on mass-produced staples instead of making our own. The idea that someone is scheming to hurt our children is tempting to indulge, especially during the season associated with both fear and – ironically – kids collecting treats from strange houses. There have and continue to be plenty of people and media sources that engage in fearmongering, spreading ideas about razor-filled apples and needles hidden in candy corn. 

Thankfully, a vast majority of Halloween-related injuries have been proven to have zero connection to tampered candy. That being said, recently there has been significant media coverage of a potential risk to children of ingesting the powerful opiod fentanyl in the form of colorful, fun-sized pills. The DEA’s warning about “rainbow fentanyl,” issued at the end of the summer, sent some parents and media outlets into a panicked frenzy. So, let’s talk about it, and I hope I can put your mind at ease, helping you parse through the real and imagined threats of Halloween. 

Halloween Myths

The term “Halloween sadism” was coined in the 70s to describe the crime of tainting treats to harm neighborhood children. Urban legends warned of sharp objects hidden in candy bars and rat poison baked into cookies. However, in almost every reported case of this ridiculous wrongdoing, the truth turned out to be markedly different from legend. Unfortunate family conflicts, underlying health conditions, and honest mistakes explain most of the harm attributed to Halloween candy. 

A more recent concern is the idea that marijuana-infused gummies will be given out to children instead of regular treats. But think about it: even since the legalization of weed in some states, it is still relatively expensive and difficult to obtain. Why would a person with access to marijuana give it away for free to neighborhood kids? It makes no sense.

The “rainbow fentanyl” scare is similarly overblown. The theory behind this myth is that fentanyl, a highly addictive and dangerous narcotic, is being marketed for children via colorful pills. However,

multiple drug crime experts have weighed in on the issue, saying that this doesn’t make sense purely from a business perspective. Persons who acquire fentanyl for misuse are not looking to give it away freely. Both legal and illicit drugs have always been colorful for ease of differentiation. This is not a brand-new concept nor a fresh scheme to harm our kids. 

Halloween Threats

Now, there are some real dangers that we should be watching out for as our costumed children acquire their holiday loot. First and foremost, if you know that your child is allergic to nuts or another common candy ingredient, make sure to go through their candy with them to eliminate the risk of accidental consumption. Remind your child of the dangers of allergic reactions and involve them in the safeguarding process. Double check the expiration date of your child’s epi-pen and be ready to use it if an accident occurs. If your kids want to have a few pieces of candy while trick-or-treating, bring some of your own supply that you know is safe to consume instead of dipping into the newly acquired candy inventory.

The other concern is the injuries caused by children being struck as pedestrians due to their dark costumes, as well as children tripping and falling because their costumes are too long or ill-fitting. If your child wears a mask, make sure that it doesn’t obscure their line of sight. A dress rehearsal or two is a good idea to work out any wardrobe kinks before the big night. And be sure to add some reflective material to every costume.

So, when it comes to Halloween scares, there are plenty of urban legends as silly as a campfire ghost story. However, there are some real risks associated with the spirited holiday that all parents and families should remember to heed, so that their Halloween is all treat and no trick.