Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Halloween is a scary time of year, but we all can make sure that children have a safe holiday with the following tips.
"All Dressed Up..."
- Masks are not recommended because they can obstruct a child's vision. If a child wears makeup, parents should look for non- toxic, hypoallergenic makeup kits.
- Costumes should be flame-retardant and fit properly. Avoid oversized shoes, high heels and long skirts or pants that could cause a child to fall.
- Children who will be trick-or-treating after dusk should have reflective tape on their costumes and carry flashlights.
- Think twice before using simulated knives, guns or swords. If such props must be used, be certain they do not appear authentic and are soft and flexible to prevent injury.(1)
- Place fresh batteries in flashlights to assure they won't go dark while trick or treating.
- Along with flashlights for all, older children and escorts should wear a wristwatch and carry coins for non-emergency phone calls.(1)
- Plan and review with your children the route and behavior which is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when revelers must return home.(1)
- Only go to homes with a porch light on.(1)
- Never cut across yards or alleys.(1)
- Never enter a stranger's home or car for a treat.(1)
- A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children.(1)
"Carving a Niche..."
- Small children should never carve pumpkins. The knife is dangerous. Small children can draw a face with markers, then parents can do the cutting. Under parents' supervision, children ages 5 to 10 can carve with a pumpkin carving kit. Pumpkin carving kits are available in stores and include small serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue.
- Carve in a clean and well-lit Area. Wash and thoroughly dry all of the tools that you will use to carve the pumpkin: carving tools, knife, cutting surface, and your hands. Any moisture on your tools, hands, or table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.
- Help for a pumpkin carving injury. If you should happen to cut yourself while carving, take the following steps:
- Washing a cut or scrape with soap and water and keeping it clean and dry is all that is required to care for most wounds.
- Putting alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and iodine into a wound can delay healing and should be avoided.
- Seek medical care early if you think that you might need stitches. Any delay can increase the rate of wound infection. For more, please see the First Aid article, Cuts, Scrapes, and Puncture Wounds.
- Votive candles are safest for pumpkins with a candle in them.
Take care with lighted pumpkins. They should be placed on a
sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects and
should never be left unattended.
- Consider safety when decorating. Do not overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or special effects. (1)
- No snacking while trick-or-treating. Children shouldn't snack while they're out trick-or-treating. A good meal before parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on candy. Parents should check treats at home.
- Watch for signs of tampering, such as small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages.
- Parents of young children should get rid of choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys.
- To keep their home safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
- Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
- Wet leaves should be swept away from the sidewalks and steps.
- Remember that Halloween is for children of all ages... so get involved with your little ghost or goblin!
And, remember that 24,000 children are hurt and 700 are killed by cars each year in the U.S. at Halloween. Watch out for cars!
And have a safe and happy Halloween!
(1) Los Angeles Fire Department (www.lafd.org/hween.htm)