Dr. Brent Rotton, D.O.
From many families, Halloween has become a major holiday with elaborate decorations and creative costumes. Unfortunately, the excitement of the day can pose health risks, especially for children.
The top cause of injuries on Halloween night is accidental falls from tripping over costume hems, steps, curbs, or other unseen obstacles. Children get so excited on Halloween that they lose their safety sense.
Distractions abound, and when you can combine them with children’s short stature, inability to assess danger and react quickly enough, lack of skills in evaluating traffic and lack on impulse control, the results can be deadly.
Four times as many children are killed in auto-pedestrian accidents on Halloween night as those killed on any other night of the year.
In addition to the dangers posed by traffic, trips and falls, other Halloween traditions carry their own risks.
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat a number of hand injuries among children and adults carving jack-o’-lanterns. And, those same jack-o’-lanterns pose a fire and burn danger when lit with candle and placed where eager trick-or-treaters can tip them over or catch the edge of their costume in the flame.
Dr. Rotton provided these tips to make your Halloween celebrations safer:
• Skip the masks and use non-toxic face paint.
• Be careful where you place any lit jack-o’-lanterns. Don’t put them in drafts or where papers, curtains or other flammable objects are nearby. Avoid placement where trick or treaters will be congregating.
• Choose flame-resistant costumes. To increase night-time visibility, choose costumes in light colors or add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags.
• Feed children before the go trick-or-treating, and make sure they know not to eat and candy until you have had a chance to inspect it. All candy should be wrapped. Check for signs of tampering such as small pinholes, and discard any questionable treats.
• Hard candies can pose a choking hazard to children who may trip or who are distracted. Don’t let children pop a sucker in their mouths and take off running down the street.
• If you want to cut down on sugary snacks or eliminate any possible risk of tampering, consider giving out decorative pencils, stickers, shoelaces or other treats.
• Any costume accessories such as knives, swords, wands and so forth should be made out of cardboard or flexible materials.
• For trick-or-treating, skip the fancy footwear or oversized shoes and wear well-fitting shoes to minimize the risk of trips and falls.
• All of the activity can stress out the family pet and normally friendly dogs can become cautious or fearful around the large number of strangers. Instruct your children not to pet even familiar dogs. At home it may be appropriate to keep the family pet away from the front door activity.
• Trick-or-treaters should carry a flashlight if they will be out after dark. Children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by an adult. Older children may be allowed to visit neighborhood homes with their friends, but you should make sure you know their companions and that a curfew has been set.
• Review basic traffic safety with children of all ages. Make sure they cross streets at corners and after carefully checking for traffic. Visit only homes where exterior lights are on, and never go inside the home of someone you don’t know.
• If you’re going to drive your children from home to home, have them use the curb-side doors to leave and enter the car.
• As an adult, if you will be driving on Halloween night, pay extra attention to children who may dart into the street. If you’re staying home to hand out treats, check your yard, porch, sidewalks for obstacles, and make sure your porch light is working.
• Consider a Halloween party or fall festival for the kids and skip the trick-or-treating altogether.
Dr. Brent Rotton, D.O., is chief of staff at Tahlequah City Hospital