Top 10 Real Dangers Of Halloween
Straddling the season between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween has been a time of celebration and superstition. The holiday is thought to have originated with the ancient Irish as the Samuin festival (loosely translated as summer’s end) and later adopted by the Celts who would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and spirits.
Halloween has evolved into a more secular event characterized by family friendly activities such as turning homes into spooky houses, hosting neighborhood parties, dances and trick-or-treating.
Today the popularity of celebrating Halloween has brought on an entirely new set of dangers and concerns for parents of young children. Here’s how to keep your children safe from burns, falls, poisoning and other threats during Halloween.
Safe Treats Or Deadly Treats?
Razor blades in apples may be more myth than reality; still, parents should warn their children not to eat any treats before an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering. That includes fruit, unwrapped baked items and virtually anything not in its original packaging. This is also a good time to remind children about any allergies or other health issues that may exist.
Look for a warning label and avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed. Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your retail grocer’s frozen food section, refrigerated section, on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
Smaller children are quick to put things in their mouth. It's best to carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters less than three years of age. Avoid any treats that are small enough to create a choking hazard, or treats including small parts that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.
Make Certain Costumes Are Safe
Most purchased costumes are relatively safe if manufactured form flame retardant materials. Look for the words “flame resistant” on the label. Check the length of pants and sleeves to make certain they fit properly and will not become tangled as the child moves. Oh, and that draped ghost costume made from an old bed sheet may look cute, but it can cause a nasty spill if the bottom edges become entangled with a child’s feet. To guard against trips and falls, costumes should fit well and not drag on the ground. The same caution applies to costume capes and fairy wings.
Costumes that include swords, knives and similar accessories should be made of soft, flexible material. Soft swords and knives help protect kids and their companions from accidental injuries.
Falls are a common occurrence on Halloween. Inappropriate shoes can contribute to the problem. Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Oversized adult shoes or high heels can contribute to a fall.
Dangerous Masks To Avoid
To remain safe, kids need to be able to see well. If the child’s costume includes a mask, make certain it fits securely and provides adequate ventilation. Masks should feature eyeholes large enough to allow full peripheral vision. If not, a small pair of scissors or utility knife can be used to open up or enlarge the eyeholes.
Danger From Cars And Street Traffic
Small costumed children are particularly vulnerable, in the street, during Halloween. For greater visibility at dusk and night, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that reflects in the beam of a car's headlights. Purchase or make costumes that are light colored, bright and clearly visible to motorists.
Bags or trick-or-treat sacks can also be light-colors or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, building supply centers, bicycle shops and sporting goods stores.
Flashlights may not fit the theme of the costume, but they're important if children are to see and be seen in the dark. A simple spray can of colored paint can make the flashlight part of the costume color theme. This is another chance to be creative. Suggest to the kids a black and white flashlight for skeleton costumes, a black and red flashlight for pirate costumes, or a purple flashlight for fairy and princess costumes.
Dangerous Outdoor Halloween Decorations
- Homeowners are responsible for the safety of their property. Ensure that flame-lit decorations don't catch on fire, decorations don’t fall out of trees that walkways and paths aren't littered with items that can trip kids and other guests.
- Yard decorations should always be stable and not easily tipped over. Keep decorations several feet back from pathways to avoid excited kids and costumes from becoming entangled.
- Use decorative lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Examine each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets to avoid injuries.
- Electrical power cords should also be kept away from steps, pathways and standing water.
- Check overhead Halloween decorations to make certain they remain secure throughout the night and do not fall on unsuspecting kids and adults.
- Try to not go overboard when it comes to Halloween decorating. This is a good time to go ahead and fix up areas on your property that can be potentially dangerous.
- Fog machines should be kept away from stairs and steps to avoid causing trips and falls.
- Strobe lights can create another potential problem for homeowners. The Epilepsy Foundation states the flicker of strobe lights can cause light-induced seizures in children who are photosensitive. Long thought to be the stuff of urban legends, recent tests have shown flashing lights between the frequencies of five to 30 flashes per second are most likely to trigger seizures. In order to be safe, The Epilepsy Foundation recommends that photosensitive children and adults should not be exposed to flashes greater than three per second. If your decorations cause injury it's possible you can be faced with a lawsuit.
Fire Dangers From Candles
Halloween is one of the top five days for candle fires. Keep that carved pumpkin from turning into a firebomb. Decorations should be kept away from landings and steps where children’s costumes could brush against the pumpkin or flame. In small porch areas consider swapping the candle for a battery-powered light.
Indoor decorations, candles and jack-o'-lanterns should be kept away from curtains and other items that could ignite. Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Masks that obscure eyesight are a continuing problem. Eyeholes should be checked to ensure a large enough area for full peripheral vision.
- Hats and scarves should be tied securely to prevent them from slipping over children's eyes and obstructing their vision.
- Don’t wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and received a proper lens fitting and instructions for using decorative lenses.
- Vision experts warn that buying any kind of contact lenses without an examination and a prescription from an eye care professional can cause serious eye disorders and infections. Eye infections can lead to permanent vision loss.
- It’s illegal to sell decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription. The FDA says many decorative lenses are sold on the Internet and in retail shops and salons—particularly around Halloween. These present a very real danger.
Allergy-Free Halloween Costumes
Test any costume makeup you plan to use by placing a small amount on the arm of the person who will be wearing it several days in advance. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a clear indication of a possible allergy.
Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
Safe Pumpkin Carving
- Use the right tools. One advantage of the pumpkin carving tools is that they can saw through rinds, poke holes and scoop out innards without being razor-sharp. The tools are generally small, which makes them easier for kids to control than knives.
- Carve the pumpkin before taking off the top. Stabilize the pumpkin by holding the top and pointing the blade down.
- Take precautions by carving in a clean, dry, and well-lit area. Keep hands and tools clean and dry, and take time to make this a family evening activity.
- Don’t let small kids carve. Have them draw the pattern with a marker and clean out the pulp and seeds with their hands or a spoon—but make sure an adult does the actual cutting. It’s important to supervise older teens, too. Have them use pumpkin carving kits or, if they are responsible enough to use kitchen knives, make certain they use short-handled ones, and that they are kept clean and dry.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween.