The Real Horror of Trick-or-Treating

halloween kidsAlthough historically All Hallow’s Eve was dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows),martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers, these days for most kids Halloween is all about the candy.

It is estimated that by the end of the evening, each child’s bag of goodies contains about 4,800 calories and has 3 cups of sugar and 1 ½ cups of fat. The real horror in the Halloween trick-or-treat bag is the contribution it plays to an already scary epidemic of childhood obesity.

halloween candyKids and teens love Halloween. It’s filled with fun parties and costumes, and free candy. Halloween can be a great time as long as parents make sure their child doesn’t go overboard eating all that candy,” said Garry Sigman, MD, director of the pediatric weight management program at Loyola University Health System.

So how can you balance healthy and happy for your kids this Halloween? Here’s some great tips from Dr. Sigmam:

  • Focus on fun, not candy. Find fun activities for your kids to do instead of just walking door-to-door getting candy. Plan a party with fun games or have a pumpkin-carving contest. You could watch a scary movie or have a costume parade.
  • Set limits. Limit the time your kids are out trick-or-treating. Instead of the pillowcase look for a small bag that they can use to collect candy. When they get home let them pick out two pieces to eat and then put the rest away in a freezer or hidden place to save for another day. All children should eat no more than one or two pieces of candy a day. If a child is obese he or she should not eat more than one or two pieces of candy a week.
  • Host a candy trade-in party. When the kids get back from trick-or-treating the candy in each child’s bag is weighed. Kids can exchange their candy for prizes based on the bag’s weight.

jack-o-oranges healthy halloween treatsAdults can also help by providing healthier alternatives to candy.  For example: Fruit leathers, packs of sugarless gum, boxed dried raisins, 100-calorie packs of cookies or snacks, granola bars, snack-sized bags of popcorn or non-food treats such as play-doh, spider rings, bubbles, temporary tattoos, sidewalk chalk or cookie cutters.

How are you planning on making your Halloween healthier?

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Is Halloween Haunting You?

scary halloweenAs October  31 approaches, businesses are capitalizing on the psychology of fear.

This year alone, Americans will spend around $7 billion on Halloween costumes, haunted houses fright fests and generally scaring the heck out of themselves and others.

We don’t have many other holidays that are really directly connected to a strong emotion that is almost universal – fear and the dark side,” says Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University who specializes in thrill-seeking and extreme behavior.

So why do we enjoy Halloween thrills so much?

One 2007 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research  dispelled earlier assumptions that humans respond to pleasure and avoid pain. They explored why people love horror movies and discovered that people actually like to be scared. Previously it had been assumed that people watch horror moves because (a) they are not actually afraid, but excited by the movie or (b) that they are willing to endure the terror in order to enjoy a euphoric sense of relief at the end.

woman-scaredThe authors argue that horror movie viewers are happy to be unhappy. This novel approach to emotion reveals that people experience both negative and positive emotions simultaneously. People may actually enjoy being scared, not just relief when the threat is removed.  The authors concluded: “Pleasant moments of a particular event may also be the most fearful.” And compared horror movies to the thrill and fear of extreme sports.

But not everyone likes being scared. How a person responds to fear is wired in their personality. Those who thrive on fear are so-called T-types.  They are thrill-seekers, according to Farley, who coined the term in the 1980s.

They like uncertainty, suspense, unpredictability, the unknown,” he said. “Uncertainty is the prime source of fear. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Movie makers and amusement park ride creators know how to induce fear. There is intensity of stimulation.  It can be the sound of screams or the visual – something comes out of nowhere into your face, like a house of horror.

JawsMusic is also important, like the pulsating theme of the movie, “Jaws,” as the white shark leaps out of the water.

Sometimes the sensation is tactile, when walking through an unstable platform in a fun house.

Roller coasters are the ultimate thrill ride. “Where else are you expected to throw your hands in the air and scream at the top of your lungs?” Farley asked. “The intensity factor is important. Thrill rides really jerk a person around. They rotate the body and change the G force and people are screaming. You don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Novelty and contradiction is also a factor in fear –  a clown who kills or a child who is a monster.

Movies and books that exploit the most basic of human fears come dangerously close to reality. And experiencing that horror as a child can be a dress rehearsal for facing fear in the adult world.  Children have an uncanny attraction to frightening stories and psychologists say they project their fears and come to terms with them through stories.

Some of the most popular children’s fiction involves ghost, vampires and skeletons. Harry Potter enthralls readers with witches and warlocks.

But the concept of scary children’s stories is not new. The Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, first published in 1812, were culled from folk stories that had been recited over generations. Many of the original stories were gruesome. Some involved rape, incest, child murder bullying and cannibalism.

grimmsAlthough they have since been sanitized, in the original “Snow White,” the queen asks for the young maiden’s liver and lungs, which she intends to serve up for dinner. Likewise, in the original “Sleeping Beauty” our heroine is bitten and then raped by the king (not kissed by a prince), and she gives birth to his two children in her sleep.

Fairytales are a path to dealing with fear, to figure out how it works, what it is and recognizing it,” says Farley. “Pulling your head out of the sand when you are surrounded by horror or fearsome things has a high survival value.”

halloween-haunted-houseMaybe that’s why we like Halloween so much…or perhaps it’s just the candy and hot apple cider!  Let us know what you think.

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Halloween: A scary time for those with asthma and allergies.

Most parents of kids with food allergies are well aware of the potential dangers of trick-or-treat candy and have strategies in place to avoid Halloween horrors. However, teaching your kids to just say no to Snickers bars may not be enough.   According to experts from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) there are many more unexpected allergy and asthma triggers that can pose a threat to trick-or-treaters, including dusty costumes, fog machines and makeup. “When people think of Halloween-associated allergies, they focus on candy and often overlook many other potential triggers,” said Dr. Myron Zitt, former ACAAI president in a news release. “By planning ahead, you can ensure not only safe treats, but also safe costumes, makeup, accessories and decorations.” The ACAAI advises parents to be on the lookout for six potential triggers they may not be expecting, including:

  • Gelatin  – Although it’s a less common trigger, research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows gummy bears and other candies may contain this potential allergen. Parents can have their child tested for specific allergies and develop a food allergy treatment plan. They may also want to have some non-candy treats, such as stickers or small toys, on hand to swap for candy.
  • NickelCostume details and accessories, such as belts, tiaras and swords may contain nickel — one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy.
  • Dust mitesOld costumes packed away in attics or closets may be filled with dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergies. Parents should either buy or make new costumes or wash old ones before kids put them on.
  • Makeup Some types of face and body makeup may include preservatives that may cause allergic reactions. Buying higher quality theater makeup can help avoid this trigger. Also be sure to test the makeup on a small patch of skin before applying it over a larger area of skin at least a few days before Halloween.
  • FogReal fog or fog machines can trigger asthma in some people.
  • PumpkinsAllergies to pumpkins are rare, but they can develop suddenly — especially when they are moldy or dusty. As a result, pumpkins purchased at a busy grocery store are less likely to trigger an allergy.

You have been warned!!!  Please stay safe out there this Halloween.