Seattle's Child

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Ask the Pediatrician: Tips for a fun and safe Halloween

Dr. Susanna Block also discusses road safety and seasonal affective disorder.

It’s hard to believe it’s already October and we are in the full swing of fall, one of the most beautiful times of the year. While we are still navigating remote learning, I hope your family is settling into a routine that’s starting to feel more comfortable and natural.

As the days get cooler and many of our favorite holidays — starting with Halloween — are around the corner, the shorter days can make us feel tired and withdrawn. This month, I’m tackling questions around how we can have happy and healthy holidays, even if they look a little different than in years past. As always, thank you for your great questions and please keep them coming.

Got a question for Dr. Block? Send it to jhanson@seattleschild.com and we’ll pass it along?

 

How can my family stay safe this Halloween but still have fun?

If your kids are like mine, the question of what they’ll be for Halloween starts in the summer. This year, October comes with an even bigger question: How can we safely celebrate? If we take the necessary precautions such as avoiding large gatherings, staying 6 feet away from others, wearing face masks and thoroughly washing our hands, there is still lots of fun to be had. For example:

  • Wearing your costume all day (and be sure to go for a family walk around the neighborhood, too).
  • Having a spooky movie night with the family (in costume, of course!)
  • Decorating pumpkins at home and roasting those delicious pumpkin seeds (recipe here). (If you plan on going to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard, use hand sanitizer before and after touching what you pick.)

Unfortunately, spooky events like haunted houses and trick-or-treating, as fun as they are, are best left for another year since these activities put us at risk of getting too close to others. For additional guidance on how to safely celebrate the upcoming holidays, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has more information available on its website.

We can still make the most of this holiday if we choose to see this as a chance to get creative and remain flexible. There is a good chance that if we as parents are positive about this Halloween, our kids will be, too.

Also: Online events: Enjoy Halloween from the comfort and safety of your home

 

How can I teach my kids road safety as it starts getting darker, earlier?

Many of us are walking around our neighborhoods more and more these days. The combination of spending more time indoors during the day and having fewer after-school sports and activities means our kids are likely getting out their extra energy by walking, biking or skating around the neighborhood. While this is a great way to stay physically and mentally healthy, it is also important to take the time to brush up on road safety.

We can start by reminding our kids to stop and look both ways before crossing the street and that we should never assume right of way. Clarify who has right of way between people, bicycles and cars. Additionally, adding reflective tape to jackets, helmets and shoes can help make your kids more visible to vehicles.

You may also want to consider setting boundaries for how far kids are allowed to roam and/or adjust outdoor play “curfew” based on when the sun sets. If your street has a cul de sac or park, practice walking with your kids to and from that location so you can point out necessary sidewalks and crosswalks they should use along the way.

 

Every year my teen gets the winter blues. Do you think this is seasonal affective disorder? How can I best help them?

We typically think about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as an adult issue, but it can impact older children and teens just as well. SAD runs in families but is more common for people living in northern latitudes where daylight is limited during the winter months. Sounds like us up here in Washington, right?

Some of the most common symptoms include feeling sleepy, sad, craving carbs and feeling depleted. While the cause of SAD is not entirely known, evidence points to disruption in “circadian rhythms” (or our natural body cycles). As the days get shorter, our bodies are less exposed to light and produce more melatonin (which makes you sleepy) and less serotonin (which fights depression).

The diagnosis of SAD is only made if a person meets criteria for a diagnosis of depression and if a seasonal pattern of symptoms has been present for at least two years. If you observe symptoms in your child, reach out to their medical provider to discuss. A few things you can also do at home to help include:

  • Getting outside every day.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Using light therapy techniques such as “bright light treatment” or a “dawn simulator,” which gradually turns on bedroom lights to simulate sunrise.

About the Author

Susanna Block

Dr. Susanna Block, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle and lives with her family in Queen Anne.