The Dark Side of Halloween

Call it the dark side of Halloween! “Halloween may be scary but it doesn’t have to be dangerous,” says Debra Holtzman J.D., M.A., an internationally recognized safety and health expert. “But it is imperative that parents become educated about these potential dangers and take the necessary precautions to keep children safe,” says Holtzman.

In fact, Children are four times more likely to suffer a pedestrian-related fatality on Halloween than any other night of the year. In addition, falls and burns are also a common cause of injuries among children.

Here are some pointers from Debra Holtzman to ensure a safe and happy Halloween for all trick or treaters:

The costume from head to toe:

-Make sure the entire costume (including beards, masks and wigs) are clearly marked as flame resistant. Or look for flame resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester.

-Avoid costumes made of flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or with billowing or long, trailing features. The costume should never be loose fitting, 100% cotton.

-The costume length should be short enough to prevent the child from tripping and falling.

-Your child should wear sturdy and well fitting shoes.

-Costume accessories must be soft and flexible. A child should not be allowed to carry a hard, sharp object.

Dress to see and be seen:

-Consider makeup (but make sure it’s nontoxic) instead of a mask, which can obstruct the child’s vision or restrict breathing. If they do wear a mask-make sure the child can see and breathe easily.

-Make sure hats and scarves are tied securely to prevent them from slipping over the child’s eyes.

-Decorate costumes, bags and sacks with retroflective tape and stickers. Reflective tape will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights.

-Equip your child with a flashlight and retroflective accessories. Make sure they stay on well-lighted streets.

Accompany your Child:

-For guidance and safety sake, accompany younger children to the door of every house they visit.

-Stop at only at very familiar homes and there is an outside light on. Carry a fully charged cell phone

-Consider talking with neighbors beforehand to establish which homes you will go to.

-Be sure that older children (teens) go trick-or-treating in a group. They should be taught to only stop at familiar homes and those with an outside light on. Make sure they know that they should not go inside any home. At least one child in their group should have a fully charged cell phone.

Pedestrian Safety:

-Never let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult on Halloween night.

-Teach them never to dart out into a street or cross between parked cars.

-Teach children to walk, not run from house to house.

-Remind children to stop at all street corners before crossing. Tell them to cross streets only at intersections and crosswalks.

-Teach them to look left, right and left again before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as they cross.

-Teach children not to cut across yards. Lawn ornaments and clotheslines are “hidden hazards” in the dark. Tell your children to stay on the sidewalk at all times.

Safe Treats:

-Instruct children not to eat any treats until they get home (Give your child a healthy snack before trick-or-treating so they get hungry.)

-Inspect all treats. Allow your child to eat only those treats that come in unopened and original wrappers. Toss out any homemade treats.

Make sure your home is Halloween safe for trick-or treaters

Prepare homes for trick-or-treaters by clearing porches, lawns, and sidewalks and by placing jack-o’-lanterns away from doorways and landings.

-Avoid giving choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys as treats to young children

-If a jack-o’-lantern is carved, only adults should wield the cutting tools. However, young children can have great fun decorating the face of the jack-o- lantern (with or without cutouts) using nontoxic markers and paints.

Illuminate jack-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks. Avoid candles.

Debra Holtzman is an internationally recognized safety and health expert and award winning parenting author. She has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Dateline NBC, Weekend Today, CNBC, and MSNBC. Debra is also the safety expert on Discovery Health Channel’s Make Room for Baby. The Safe Baby: A Do-it-yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, 2005) is in bookstores everywhere.

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