Medication Safety: Tips for Parents of Trick-or-Treaters

We all know the fall season brings a lot of excitement to us all. When the leaves begin to change and the cool nights arrive, the anticipation of bonfires and hot chocolate to warm us just seems natural. However, for some age groups, once school is in the swing of things, all they can look forward to is putting together just the right costume for the long-awaited Halloween night. Knocking door to door just to fill that bag with as much candy as possible thrills the young mind. 

Many parents fear that all the healthy eating and exercise they have worked so hard for will go right out the window. How do we as parents battle the behavior up ahead? Also, the question, “Is it safe?” comes to mind.

There is enough research to know that when our bodies indulge in sugary sweets – whether drinks or candy – our brains get a huge surge of feel-good cravings. This just makes us want and crave more and more. If we or our children can’t resist those “gotta-have-it” feelings, there may be a sugar-high crash, a change in mood and, yes, the all too often stomach ache.

For parents of children with diabetes, there are special considerations to help them participate in Halloween fun without taking unnecessary risks. Planning ahead will help your child and you manage expectations. Emphasize the fun of decorating, pumpkin carving, selecting a costume and other activities besides just eating sweets. But yes, children with diabetes can enjoy sweets in moderation and on occasion as part of a healthy balanced diet. Follow your primary care provider’s specific recommendations for managing diabetes.

Parents must be diligent and be on the lookout, in particular, for gummies. There are many over-the-counter medications and vitamins, prescriptions and marijuana edibles that come in gummy forms and can look very similar to some candies. They are not candy, however, and should not be consumed as candy. In addition to gummies, there are marijuana edibles that look like regular candy, too. Look for the words THC infused and contains marijuana and throw out anything that is not regular candy. The most important tip is children should refrain from eating any candy while trick or treating. Parents should review all the packaging before anything is consumed.

Safety Tips

While you’re out:

  • Plan your route ahead of time and only go to houses where you are familiar with the residents.
  • Don't snack on treats while trick or treating.
  • Help your children know how to look for standard packaging without tears or any alterations.
  • Avoid homemade products unless you know and trust the home it is coming from.
  • Stay in a group, watch for vehicles and use a flashlight.

Once you’re home:

  • Throw away any opened candy and inspect candy for any signs of tampering.
  • Parents should double-check labels and go through the candy with their children. If the candy is not individually packaged — as a lot of marijuana edibles come in a pack and are not individually wrapped — parents should throw it away.
  • Many over-the-counter medications, prescriptions and marijuana edibles can look very similar to some candies — so make sure the item in the trick-or-treat bag is a regular candy package.  
  • Moderation is key. Try to avoid the “eat it in a couple of days” routine. Parents and children should go through the collection and select their favorite candies to enjoy after a meal for dessert over several weeks.
  • Eat a healthy meal before going out to trick-or-treat. Having a full sensation usually helps decrease the temptation to dig into the bag to eat an abundance of candy while trick-or-treating.
  • Drink plenty of water to flush the excess sugar from the system.
  • Of course, if it looks suspicious-throw it out!

In conclusion, enjoy the Halloween festivities with creative costumes, photos with friends, a fun night out and, of course, some candy, but don’t let short-term eating affect your long-term health. 

Jack Hansen, PharmD, is the supervisor and a practicing pharmacist at SSM Health Plaza Pharmacy. To reach SSM Health Plaza Pharmacy, please call 573-681-3740.