5Ws+1H: How It's Done: Halloween costumes, pumpkin carving require safety measures for kids

Harlin Wynn dressed as Beetlejuice when he went trick-or-treating at the 2018 Hulbert Halloween in the Park.

According to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, parents should take precautions this Halloween to ensure the holiday is both fun and safe for their children.

While safely walking from home to home is important while trick-or-treating, it’s also vital that parents select safe costumes for their kids.

“The costume is the main attraction at Halloween,” said Gina Peek, OSU Extension interim dean. “Whether children choose to be a ghost, a superhero or another favorite character, making sure the costume is safe is essential.”

Costumes, wigs and accessories should all be flame-resistant. While such items may still be able to catch on fire, the material will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. Brightly colored and reflective costumes will made children more visible to motorists. The trick-or-treat bag of candy is another good spot to add reflective tape.

Nobody wants to spill their loot of candy, so costumes should fit properly to avoid tripping. Meanwhile, masks can obscure vision and restrict breathing, so parents could consider painting their child’s face instead. Whether they’re a pirate or a witch, accessories like swords and brooms shouldn’t be sharp or unwieldy.

According to Laura Hubbs-Tait, OSU Extension parenting specialist, the most common type of accident on Halloween is pedestrian injury. She encourages parents to be on heightened alert when driving through a neighborhood, as children may unexpectedly run out into the road. Porch and lawn areas should be well lit, and parents should ensure decorations displayed in yards and driveways don’t pose a tripping hazard.

“It’s important children understand that while Halloween is fun and exciting, it’s also a time to be especially cautious,” Hubbs-Tait said. “Children are often in a hurry when they’re excited to get from one house to another, so it’s vital to instill the importance of safety rules, especially as it begins to get dark.”

Top general advice Hubb-Tait includes: only visiting homes of people children know, crossing streets at intersections, walking only, carrying a flashlight, and staying on sidewalks or close to the curb facing traffic. Kids should never go inside a home or vehicle to get candy. Parents should also inspect all candy before it’s consumed.

Pumpkin carving is another activity where parents and kids should take precautions. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, there were more than 2,7000 Halloween-related injuries in 2019, with more than 40 percent of them related to pumpkin carving. Hand therapists at Redbud Physical Therapy offered six tips to keep carving safe and fun.

“We love the creativity we see each year when people decorate their pumpkins, but we don’t love it when adults or even kids come into our clinic because they have accidentally lacerated tendons or nerves in their hands while carving pumpkins,” said Bridget Finley, CEO of Redbud Physical Therapy. “Wound care, splints, and months of hand therapy can result from pumpkin-carving accidents, and we want to help folks avoid that so they can enjoy the holiday injury-free with their ghosts and goblins.”

Carving pumpkins should be done in a well-lit area. The pumpkin, hands and carving tools should be dry so nothing slips. The innards of a pumpkin are wet and slimy, so drying towels should be kept on hand. Like people should do with knives, carvers should always cut away from them. They shouldn’t try to cut all the way through a pumpkin in one stroke.

Adults should always keep a close eye and watch over their child’s shoulder as they carve. Redbud Physical Therapy suggests using a pumpkin-carving kit, as the small tools are specifically designed for safety, whereas large kitchen knives cut deep and require force to pull out, which is how many accidents occur.

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