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Halloween: Guidelines For Parents to Ensure a Safe Eve

Update Date: Oct 25, 2012 06:33 AM EDT
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Its Halloween time again and while adults can hardly contain their excitement for this time of the year, it is needless to say what spirits children are in for the eve.

It is the time when children get to dress up as their favorite characters and collect candies from different homes. It is obvious that Halloween is their favorite holiday. While it is a time full of excitement and joy, parents can take just a few measures to ensure that the exciting day does not end with injuries and tears. There have been numerous reports of accidents and injuries on Halloween eve in the previous years and experts warn parents of the possible mishaps that could ruin a perfectly joyful evening.

"As parents, we hear the horrors of razor blades or poison in candy. Though it is important to check kids' candy before they eat it, a really scary part about Halloween is pedestrian safety. Vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of injury for kids on Halloween," said Bridget Boyd, M.D., pediatric safety expert and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

In order to have a safe evening, it is important that parents are vigilant and also establish some strict rules, making sure that children adhere to them, no matter what age they are.

 "Communication is extremely important in making Halloween safe. Make sure your kids know where they can go, how long they can be gone and with whom they can spend time in advance. Go over it a few times in the days leading up to Halloween and to make sure they remember, tell them right before they head out the door," Boyd said.

She further said that parents should go along with the children when trick-or-treating. This is the first day of independence for a lot of young children. However, she warns that children should be allowed to go alone only if they can already follow directions and understand a map so they won't get lost. Children should know their neighbors and should also know how to call 911, along with knowing their own phone number.

"Kids in elementary school should still have a parent go along with them. Junior high is the age when you can begin to decide if the children are responsible enough to go alone, but having a parent is always a better idea," Boyd said.

If a child is allowed to go alone, parents must ensure that the child stays in a group. Parents can decide and make a specific trick-or-treating route beforehand and make sure the child knows the route and can come back home safely from there. Parents may also consider giving a cellphone to the child in case of an emergency. Children should also be told to use sidewalks and crosswalks.

The next big concern is candy. This has been heard time and again by parents, but it is very important to check all candies. Don't let them eat candies during trick-or-treating. If it's too much of a temptation, allow them to have one or two. This will prevent children from having candies whose package has been tampered with. Also, it will limit the amount of sugar they take in.

If the package of any candy looks tampered with or suspicious in any way, throw it out. Also ensure your child does not have an allergic reaction to any compound in candies.  

Another concern is the costume that the child wears for Halloween. While you certainly want to get your child the best suitable costume to dress up as their favorite character, it is advised to avoid any costume which is poky or sharp in nature, to avoid injuries to your child and their friends.

"Getting dressed up and pretending to be an amazing character is a lot of fun. Parents need to make sure costumes are exciting but safe. Many Halloween injuries are due to unsafe costumes," Boyd said. She suggests helping your child choose a costume that is a bright color or reflective in nature.

"Unfortunately, many of the most popular costumes for Halloween are dark colors. If your child chooses a dark-colored costume, make sure he or she wears some sort of reflector. Someone driving a car isn't going to see that shadowy figure and it could turn tragic," Boyd said.

She suggests:

  • Costumes need to be flame-resistant
  • Use non-toxic makeup instead of masks, since masks can obscure vision
  • Try to stay away from capes and costumes that are too long. These can be a trip hazard or even catch on fire from candles in jack-o'-lanterns
  • Decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye infections. According to Boyd, purchasing contact lenses without a prescription is dangerous for your health and illegal too
  • Be careful with accessories. If you have young children, make sure the necklaces, etc., are not a choking hazard and swords aren't sharp

"Teens love Halloween as well, but it's one of the most dangerous nights for driving. Try to convince them not to drive and consider holding a special Halloween event such as a scary movie night or haunted house at your house instead," Boyd said. "Whatever you do, make sure you know who they are with, where they are going, when they will be home and stay in contact throughout the night."

Carving pumpkins is one of the significant activities of the day, and may also be risky if young children try to do so with sharp knives. If you have young children, try using stickers and paint to turn that pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern, instead of actually letting your children carve it with a knife. In case your child is allowed to carve it, make sure it is done under the supervision of an adult to avoid chances of injury.

"Candles and costumes are not a good combination. Look for battery-operated candles to use in the jack-o'-lantern or if you do use a candle, make sure it's a votive. Place the pumpkin on a sturdy table away from small children," Boyd said.

"Halloween is a lot of fun and it gives parents a great chance to talk to their kids about responsibility and safety. With all the candy and costumes, it's hard for kids to control their excitement. That's where the parents come in," she added.

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