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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Prescribes the Right Amount of Fright this Halloween

Doctors encourage parents/physicians to use simple method to recognize shock and save lives

Halloween is a fun holiday for children, but haunted houses and frightening costumes may be too scary for young kids, according to experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Disturbing costumes, spooky movies and gruesome haunted houses can be emotionally stressful for children younger than 5, according to Carla Weidman, PhD, a psychologist in the Child Development Unit at Children’s.

“Haunted houses and other scary traditions like horror movies may not be appropriate for preschool-age children. These kids aren't always able to distinguish between reality and fantasy and shouldn't visit haunted houses or watch these movies,” Dr. Weidman said. “Even some children school-age and older may find haunted houses or movies a little too scary. In the end, parents should be the judge of what their children can comfortably experience.”

If children want to go to a haunted house, Dr. Weidman recommends parents explain to them beforehand that what they are about to see is make-believe. Parents also should make sure kids know they can leave at any time during the visit if what they see is too frightening.

Children’s also offers tips to keep little ghosts and goblins safe from injuries when trick-or-treating, especially while walking on and crossing streets. Four times as many children age 5-14 are killed while walking Halloween night compared with any other evening of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents should teach children to walk on sidewalks and cross streets at the corner, not from in between parked cars. For Halloween trick-or-treating, Children’s recommends that kids carry a flashlight and wear brightly colored costumes or reflective tape so they are visible to drivers.

Additional Halloween Safety Tips

  • Accompany children on a visit to a haunted house.
  • Make sure all children have adult supervision when trick-or-treating.
  • Instruct children not to eat any treats until they get home and have them checked by an adult.
  • If using face paint or make-up, make sure that the ingredient labels say “made with U.S. approved color additives,” “laboratory tested,” “non-toxic,” or “meets federal standards for cosmetics.”
  • Trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods at homes of people you know.
  • Contact police if treats have been tampered with.

More Halloween safety tips are available on Children’s Web site at Click on Injury Prevention and then click on “Holiday and Seasonal” to find more information.

Jenny Lazorchak, 412-692-5016,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008