It’s the 31st of October and we all know what that means, right?
Panic not, with 55 days till Christmas and plenty of time to tick off the goodies on the shopping list, we’re referring to Halloween. Time for trick or treating!
Traditions and origins
The word Halloween comes from a Scottish term for the night before All Hallows Day, but Halloween is a celebration observed in many countries and in some cases, right back to the 16th century.
As we all know, it is traditional to dress up at Halloween then go from house to house knocking on doors. Known as ‘guising’ in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, it was custom to have to perform a poem or sing a song, in return for fruit, nuts or sweets from the householder. More recently, the practice has adopted the North American name of “trick or treating” with the emphasis on house owners giving out sweets or candy to disguised children, to prevent some kind of “trick” being performed.
When we think of Halloween as children, we think of being allowed to head out in the dark, damp, frosty nights in fancy-dress, and the fun of seeing all our friends dressed up, usually in ghoulish costumes (the scarier the better)! We think of all the treats we might receive as our enthusiasm carries us from door to door, and we love nothing more than to compare our bag of goodies with other trick or treaters.
As parents and carers, we get caught up in the excitement too. Who doesn’t enjoy being part of the fun and seeing the delight on children’s faces? But care of our beloved offspring is always at the back of our minds, and October weather is often inclement enough to lead to slips on wet or frosty pavements, particularly if they are covered in autumn’s fallen leaves. When you add long, flowing or unwieldy costumes and running children to the mix, you can see why Halloween can also be a night for trips and falls.
Those slips, trips and falls can lead to minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, grazes and nosebleeds, all of which are easily treatable with basic first aid care. If the fall is serious enough, though, a major injury such as a broken or fractured bone, dislocation or head injury could arise, needing immediate medical care.
Head injuries are particularly serious because they can cause damage the brain. When assessing the seriousness of a head injury, it is important to look for signs such as any loss of responsiveness, any visible wounds or bleeding, confusion, memory loss, dizziness, nausea or headache.
A good way to remember this is to use what is known as the AVPU scale.
The A stands for Alert – is the casualty able to respond to questions and are their eyes open?
V stands for Voice – can the casualty respond to someone’s voice, follow simple instructions and answer questions?
P stands for Pain – if you can’t see any signs of responsiveness, does the casualty respond to pain? You could, for example, pinch them to see if they open their eyes or respond.
Finally, U stands for Unresponsive – is the casualty able to respond to questions or gentle shaking?
If the casualty is able to respond to you, their head injury is likely to be mild. It’s still important to treat them with care and make sure they have recovered fully, as concussion can follow a very brief period of unresponsiveness and will need medical assessment. The best thing to do is to sit them down somewhere comfortable and give them a cold compress, or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth, to hold against the wound. If there is any bleeding, make sure you apply direct pressure to the source.
Carry out the AVPU test and if the casualty fails to respond, the head injury could be more severe and professional medical care becomes a priority. Should this is the case, call 999 or 112 and be ready to explain how the casualty responded to the AVPU test. Whilst waiting for an ambulance, keep a close eye on the casualty to check for any changes in their condition. For example by checking their pulse and carrying out the AVPU test again if necessary. If there is still no sign of responsiveness, check that their airway is open. If the casualty is not breathing, immediately commence CPR.
First aid skills are handy all year long, not just for special occasions. Thankfully, the majority of trick or treaters enjoy Halloween unscathed. In most cases, the only blood visible will be make up props adding visual special effects. Saying that, it’s good to know how to treat injuries if they do arise.
When we’re excited about celebrating holidays or special family gatherings, we may find ourselves less vigilant about safety. However, with first aid skills fresh on our minds, we can be ready to take swift action in an emergency event. We encourage everyone to take responsibility for learning and maintaining life-saving first aid skills, and not just for holidays or special occasions.
Check out our next Level 3 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work scheduled courses in London. For more information on how to register for a first aid training course, please select the relevant courses below.
Basic Life Support
Online Emergency First Aid
These adult CPR protocols complement first aid training in assisting a casualty in an event of an emergency. There is no substitute for thorough training covering both practical and theory exercises. Please seek medical advice in all emergency events. The protocols are a guidance and in line with the Resuscitation Council UK.
Be a lifesaver, not a bystander.