Friday, October 31, 2014

Health Care and Halloween 2014

Today, Halloween, marks the annual event that millions of Americans and people around the world celebrate almost as much as Christmas. According to Wikipedia, Halloween is an international holiday celebrated on the evening of October 31; today it is often all day long with office parties and other events. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o'-lanterns, reading scary stories, and watching horror movies. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century.

Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is celebrated in several countries of the Western world, most commonly in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, and at times in parts of New Zealand.

According to Wikipedia, Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year". Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient Celtic pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved; and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them. The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows' Even (both "even" and "eve" are abbreviations of "evening", but "Halloween" gets its "n" from "even") as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day", which is now also known as All Saints' Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to 1st November.

Hundreds of years later, Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes are also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. Over eighty percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters, and over 90% of children plan to go trick-or-treating tonight.

The dental section of About.com reports how to manage all that candy that comes home with kids after trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Sugary candy can lead to tooth decay, but following these simple steps can help you and your children have a fun Halloween without the nightmare of harming their teeth in the process:

--Don’t let your kids gorge on Halloween candy all night. Teaching your kids moderation on Halloween is important.
--Monitor that your children are brushing their teeth three times a day.
--Make sure that your children use an age-appropriate fluoridated mouthwash every evening.
--Have extra disposable dental flossers laying all over the house. You’d be amazed at what kids will do when their bored.
--Avoid or limit candy such as caramels, candy corn, jelly beans, and taffy. These particular candies are extra sticky, making it hard for saliva to wash away the sugar.
--Give your kids sugar free gum to chew. Not only does sugar-free gum help prevent cavities, it also helps neutralize the effects of sugar from the candy. Therefore, it combats the bacteria in plaque that causes cavities.

Halloween is a fun holiday and you shouldn’t have to worry about things like tooth decay as indicated by About.com. By practicing good oral hygiene and using moderation, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween and still enjoy the candy! If you want to make sure your kids don't come home and gorge themselves on their Halloween candy, it can help to have a plan in place even before you go trick-or-treating. As a part of this plan, you might:

1.) Discuss how they can have a certain number of treats when they get home, but they must put the rest away for later. Unfortunately, depending on how much Halloween candy they get, 'later' can linger for days, weeks, or months, so you should also come up with a plan for this left-over Halloween candy.
2.) Allow them to keep a certain number of pieces of candy or a certain percentage of what they collect and then give the rest away to a food bank or other charity.
3.) Set a limit on how much candy they can collect on Halloween and don't let them fill up bag after bag after bag...
4.) Let them trade in their Halloween candy for something they have been wanting, like a video game, book, toy, trip to the movies, etc. or for fewer pieces of their favorite candy or treat.
5.) Prepare a healthier alternative to the Halloween candy that they will bring home, including fruits, sugar free treats, etc.
6.) Offer them alternatives to Halloween candy as a trade for their candy when they get home from trick-or-treating, which itself is a lot of the fun on Halloween for many kids, and not so much eating the candy itself. Also, make sure your kids eat dinner before going trick-or-treating so that they won't be so hungry before they get home.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers some practical safety tips for celebrating Halloween that make a lot of sense, especially for children, for a SAFE HALLOWEEN:

1. Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
2. Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
3. Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
4. Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.
5. Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.
6. Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent skin and eye irritation.
7. Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
8. Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
9. Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
10. Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
11. Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook well.
12. Enter homes only if you're with a trusted adult. Otherwise, stay outside.
13. Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Halloween can be a fun time for kids. It also can be a scary time. Make sure that you monitor where your child goes, and what types of treats they get in their bags. Be careful when you are going door to door, especially in neighborhoods where you are not familiar with all the homes in the area. Check out the items before your child eats it to make sure there are no problems with the candy or other foods. Keep tabs on how much they eat. You don't want a fun time to turn into a big stomach ache later.

Although Halloween is celebrated worldwide, don't let anyone pressure you into observing the event if you aren't open to celebrating it whether based on personal beliefs or other reasons. What may be perceived as harmless fun by many, may not be so much for you. Part of a healthy lifestyle, other than watching what you eat, is having a good feeling about your own mental and spiritual well-being on this day.

Until next time.

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