Trick-or-Treat!

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It’s that time of year again when the days shorten, the weather cools, the leaves start to fall, and kids start playing dress-up for candy. Yes, Halloween is upon us once again.

Every year millions of children (and even adults) put on costumes and go trick-or-treating, and every year thousands of folks end up in doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, and even emergency rooms as a result of trips and falls, burns, food poisoning, and even traffic collisions. Many of these injuries can easily be prevented by following some basic, common-sense guidelines.

Read on for how to make your Halloween a safe and enjoyable one – and not an expensive or painful one!

Costume Planning

• Plan costumes that are bright and reflective, or attach reflective tape to areas such as the bottom hem, back, sleeve, hat, etc.

• Make sure that costumes are short enough that your kids (or anyone else) won’t trip over them, and make sure that their shoes fit well.

• Masks can limit or even block eyesight, so consider non-toxic face paint or makeup and a hat or wig as an alternative. If your child does wear a hat or wig, make sure that it fits properly and doesn’t fall in front of their eyes.

• Shop for costumes and accessories that are labeled “flame resistant” or “flame retardant.” If you must, use a do-it-yourself spray treatment to make the costume flame resistant.

•Be careful with simulated weapons, such as guns, knives, swords, pitchforks, chainsaws, etc. If they look too real, others might think that they are. Also make sure that any simulated weapons used are flexible enough that they won’t cause injury to your child should he/she fall on it (or to another child in a play fight). Better still, challenge your kids to come up with costumes that don’t need weapons to be scary or fun.

• Have your children each take their own flashlight (with fresh batteries!) to illuminate dark pathways, and give them glow sticks or battery-powered lanterns instead of candles for their costumes or accessories. (These are also a great alternative to candles in your jack-o-lanterns!)

• Make a tag or bracelet for each child with emergency identification and contact information, such as name, phone number, address, etc., and secure it discreetly within their costumes or on their wrists.

Decorations

• Pumpkin-carving is one of the most popular family activities for Halloween, but remember safety first. Let your kids help with designing and cleaning out the pumpkin, but have the adults do all the actual carving.

• Never use candles or other sources of flame in unprotected spaces, such as setting on the ground. Only use candles inside pumpkins or enclosed holders/lanterns, and make sure that they are set far enough back from the path that trick-or-treaters won’t knock them over or get their costumes in the flames. Keep all flames away from flammable objects such as drapes, other decorations, etc.

• Check your porch, front walk, and any other area where trick-or-treaters might travel for trip hazards, such as flower pots, power cords, garden hoses, support wires, etc. Check for low tree limbs or exposed roots, and either trim them back or place decorations to direct children around. Trim back shrubs and other plants near walkways.

• Water your lawn in the morning or even the night before, so that it’s not wet, slick, and muddy when trick-or-treaters start showing up.

• Don’t forget about fire safety with electric decorations, either; don’t overload outlets, and only use decorations and extension cords labeled “for outdoor use” outside.

Halloween Night

• Remember: a good meal before trick-or-treating will help keep your kids from overloading on Halloween treats that night.

• Only allow your children to trick-or-treat in groups, with a trusted adult or responsible teenager escorting them if you yourself can’t go. Know who your children are going with and what route they’re going to take. Have an agreed-upon time for your kids to be back, and make sure the escort is also aware and has a watch or other timepiece. Also make sure the escort has a cell phone or some coins for a payphone, just in case.

• Don’t allow your children to ride bikes, rollerblades/rollerskates, foot-powered scooters, or skateboards for trick or treating. (Using them as props is OK, so long as it’s done in a safe and respectful manner.)

• Never allow your children to stop at homes whose porch light is not on, and never allow them to enter anyone’s home that both they and you don’t know well.

• Make sure that your kids only cross the street at designated crossings, and that they look both ways before stepping out into the street. Also have your kids wait to make sure traffic is stopped completely before crossing – just because one car stops doesn’t mean that the one coming the other way will as well.

• Remind your kids never to accept rides from anyone except family members.

• Keep pets in a confined or segregated area until trick-or-treating is done, and ensure they’re all wearing current identification tags (especially important if you’ve recently moved or changed your phone number).

• Don’t allow your kids to eat any candy until they get home and you inspect it. Look for tampered or torn packaging, spoiled items, or anything suspicious. Never let your kids eat anything that’s unwrapped or open when given to them.

More Tips

• Discuss with your kids in advance both appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Tricks are all part of the fun, but even something as simple as throwing eggs can have consequences, such as cleanup or broken windows.

• Learn or review CPR and first aid skills to aid someone who starts choking, has a heart attack, or gets injured while trick-or-treating.

• Review “Stop-Drop-Roll” procedures with your kids, should their clothes happen to catch on fire.

• Teach your kids your home phone number and how to call 911 if they have an emergency or become lost. Remind them that 911 can be dialed from any phone, for free.

• Consider hosting a Halloween party for your kids and their friends as an alternative to trick-or-treating. Provide goody bags so that the kids don’t go home empty-handed and feel like they missed out.

• After thoroughly checking your kid’s candy, portion it out so that they don’t make themselves sick from eating too much at once!

• Remind your family members to drive slowly and take extra caution on Halloween night.

• For adult Halloween parties, make sure who the designated drivers are, and reward them for taking on the extra responsibility.

• Reminder: this is the time of year when you should check your smoke detector batteries as well!

Have a Happy Halloween!