HCHD Offers Halloween Tips

HOUSTON (Oct. 21, 2009) – Halloween is around the corner, and the Harris County Hospital District’s specialists offer tips for a safe and healthy Halloween.

Why We Love to be Scared
Ever wonder why you look forward to being chased by a chainsaw-wielding wacko in a horror-filled haunted house?

“People like to get scared because of the arousal it causes in their bodies,” said Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, chief of psychiatry at Ben Taub General Hospital and the Harris County Hospital District.

When people are frightened, their bodies trigger a flight or fight response, which is the body’s reaction to fear. When people are faced with a threat, their heart rate increases, lungs take in more air, pupils get larger and all attention is focused on the threat.

“Once activated, we get aroused and excited,” Ostermeyer said.

But because people know there is no real harm, the adrenaline rush is enjoyable, and laughter is usually the result.

Trick or Treat, Give Me Something GOOD to Eat
Everyone knows the rhyme, “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.”

But what does “good” actually mean? 

To kids, it means loads of sugar-filled Pixy Stix, gobs of gum and an ever-abundant stash of chocolate. Only in Candy Land does that constitute a well-balanced diet.

Granted you can’t hand out carrots to kids without being labeled the boring house, but there are healthier options, such as pretzels, fruit snacks, raisins and popcorn.

An even more non-fattening, non-sugar laden option is handing out pencils or stickers. Buying these at a dollar store could even be cheaper than candy.

Back at home how do you get candy-crazed trick-or-treaters to surrender their loot, or rather not eat it in one fell swoop?

“Let your kids enjoy a couple of pieces, it’s not that bad. It’s only bad when they eat all of it,” said Shaynee Roper, RD, LD, HCHD clinical nutrition manager. “Parents can use the candy as a reward system — giving it to the children after they’ve accomplished something.”

Parents can also freeze the candy, which can last six to 12 months. 

But plan ahead of Halloween night. If you know you’ll be tempted to eat the leftover candy, buy the candy you hate. It will benefit your waistline.

Halloween is the beginning of the holiday party season, and we all know what that means — holiday weight gain.

“People think, ‘I can eat whatever I want – it’s the holiday.’ Sure, you can eat on the actual holidays, but don’t overindulge between them,” Roper said.

Spooky Halloween Contacts Can Harm Eyes if Not Handled Properly
Are you a devil in disguise? Or perhaps a tiger on the prowl? Whatever your Halloween costume choice, there are those who want to go as far as getting costume contacts that create patterns or black out the entire eye.

While costume contacts may finish your look, they can cause problems if not handled properly.

“All contact lenses are medical devices. Cosmetic contact lenses, just like clear ones, come in a variety of colors, sizes, curvatures and prescriptions,” said Dr. Reza Farahani, optometrist at the Harris County Hospital District’s Acres Home Health Center. “A person who is interested in wearing them should be properly evaluated and fitted by their eye doctor.”

“Improperly fitted contact lenses (cosmetic or clear) can render a person’s eyes – specifically the cornea – more susceptible to the lack of oxygen, swelling, scratches, the growth of abnormal blood vessels, among other threats,” Farahani said.

The eyes become more prone to infections, such as pink eye and corneal ulcer, which is a serious and possibly sight-threatening infection of the front part of the eye.

But if your thought is, “I’ll just borrow Mikey’s contacts from last year.” Think again. If the owner of the lenses has an eye infection, the organism can be transported via the contact lens to your eyes.

Contacts are custom tailored to each individual’s eyes. What may fit perfectly for one person, may end up being a poor fit for another and could cause a serious infection.

Halloween contacts may lend themselves to a spookier costume. But be sure to visit your eye doctor for proper fit to avoid serious eye complications.

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