Halloween safety tips every parent needs to know
Easy ways to keep the whole family safe.
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Cars and nighttime and strangers with candy, oh my! It’s that time of year again: The leaves are falling, the most popular costumes are selling out before you can make it to the store, and your kids are mapping out the best route to score the most candy. Here are practical ways to keep your little ghosts, goblins and princesses safe both outside while trick-or-treating and at home pumpkin carving and decorating.
According to safekids.org, the likelihood of children getting hit by a car doubles on Halloween more than on any other day of the year.
- Before your family embarks on a trick-or-treating adventure, decide on a route of safe houses that’s easy to walk and includes clear paths and sidewalks.
- Trick-or-treat early before the sun goes down to maximize visibility. No matter what time of night you go out, walk with a large group with plenty of adults who can keep children on track and out of traffic.
- While trick-or-treating, remind your child of traffic safety rules: Look both ways before crossing, use traffic signals and crosswalks, make eye contact with drivers.
- Don't walk while looking down at your phone, even though you might be compelled to capture every “trick-or-treat!” moment.
- Make sure your child’s costume includes a top layer of lighter, more visible colors. Have fun finding creative ways to incorporate reflective tape or stickers on to your little Iron Man or Elsa, or luminous tape on your spooky skeleton.
- Have your child carry a candy bucket with built-in lights, or attach a glow stick or flashlight onto their treat bucket or bag. They’ll love taking stock of their growing stash and you can rest assured that they can be seen by drivers.
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Being seen isn’t the only way to remain safe. What your child wears can increase the chance of injuries, so it's important to make sure that your child’s costume is the right size in order to avoid trips, falls and distractions while walking.
- Hem long gowns and loose pants: Make sure your child’s shoes are visible, and avoid costumes with long trains or capes that drag on the ground.
- Opt for non-toxic face paint and makeup instead of masks, which tend to cover a child’s eyes and obstruct their vision. If your child does insist on wearing a mask, make sure the size of the eye holes are twice as big as your child’s eyes.
- Hand props like toy swords, wands and shields should be made of soft materials to avoid any pokes or scratches. Take photos with full costume accessories and hand props before trick or treating and leave additional costume items at home.
- Check the tags in your child's costume to make sure it's flame retardant before he runs past any Jack O'Lanterns with lit candles.
While cases of tampered candy are rare and mostly the stuff of urban legends, it is worthwhile to be mindful of what’s in your child’s trick or treat bag.
- Serve your kids a healthy, filling dinner before trick-or-treating, so they are less likely to eat candy while out: This will give you the chance to look through all of their candy when you get home.
- Be sure to throw away any candy with tears, holes or damaged wrappers. Also throw away homemade treats and candy that could be a choking hazard for young children.
- If your child has a food allergy, be sure to check all labels before any candy is unwrapped and gobbled up.
Pumpkin carving safety
The only thing more ubiquitous than the Jack O’Lantern during Halloween are pumpkin carving injuries. According to the American Society for the Surgery of the Hand, Halloween is a top-three holiday for emergency room visits. Here’s some tips so you can have both hands ready to give out candy on Halloween night.
- Never let children do the carving, no matter how much they promise they’ll be careful. To make kids feel involved, let them draw the pattern and clean out all of the fun, goopy pulp and seeds, and get them a pumpkin carving kit designed just for kids.
- Avoid any slipping by making sure your carving tools, surface, and hands are fully dry before you begin. Be sure to take your time and carve away from yourself in small, slow strokes and be very careful if your knife gets stuck. Many injuries occur when a carver uses force to remove a knife that gets stuck in the pumpkin.
- Use a pumpkin carving kit to avoid injuries: These kits include stencils, a scoop, and easy-to-use serrated knives that are less likely to get stuck in a pumpkin and are not sharp enough to cause a deep cut.
While the only thing cuter than kids in costumes are pets in costumes, Halloween can pose some risks to the four legged members of your family. According to Protect America, there’s a 12% increase of emergency vet calls on Halloween, and it's the second most common holiday for pets to get lost.
- Keep all chocolate and candy away from your pets: All chocolate—particularly baking and dark chocolate—can be dangerous and even lethal for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include diarrhea, increased heart rate, seizures and vomiting.
- Candy containing the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can also be dangerous for dogs: Xylitol poisoning can lead to a drop in blood sugar which can result in liver failure.
- Keep pumpkins and decorative vegetation away from pets: Though small amounts of pumpkin and corn are safe for pets, eating large amounts of unfamiliar food or moldy vegetation can cause gastrointestinal distress. If pets eat something too large, it can cause an intestinal blockage, and some types of molds can produce mycotoxins that can lead to neurological problems in animals.
- Don’t force your pet to wear a costume: If your pet finds costumes annoying or distressing, it may result in aggressive and anxious behavior. Try the costume on your pet before Halloween or an event, and make sure it doesn’t restrict movement, hearing, eyesight or breathing.
Make sure your pet wears a collar with an identification tag in case it escapes or becomes lost. In addition to a tag, microchips are the best, most permanent way to ensure your pet is equipped with identification. Halloween is a great yearly reminder to make sure microchip and ID tag information is up to date including your address and phone number.
It’s fun to decorate for Halloween and nothing captures the spirit of the holiday like welcoming little trick-or-treaters with a lit Jack O’Lantern at your front door. Unfortunately, Halloween decorations can pose fire risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2009-2013 flammable decorations started an average of 860 home fires per year.
- Instead of real candles, use battery operated candles inside your Jack O’ Lanterns. If you come across pumpkins with lit candles or an open flame while trick or treating, remind your children to step away.
Check that exits in your home are easily accessible, that your smoke detectors are working, and that your fire extinguisher is fully charged. While decorating inside your home, be sure to keep dried flowers and vegetation and paper decorations away from open flames, lightbulbs and heaters.
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