Have a Hazard-Free Halloween
When we think of Halloween, we picture children laughing in colorful costumes, jack-o'-lanterns glowing in house windows, and buckets brimming with candy and treats. Experts warn, however, that this fun-filled night can pose safety hazards.
An alternative is to throw a Halloween party and invite kids, rather than have them out on the street. But if your kids will be going door-to-door trick-or-treating, here are some safety steps to make the evening safe and fun for everyone.
Safety begins at home, with the child's costume. Each part of the costume—masks, beards, wigs and clothing—should be made of flame-resistant material, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In the event that a child bumps up against a burning candle, such materials will quickly extinguish themselves. When purchasing a store-bought costume, look for a label that says "Flame Resistant." Choose costumes without big, loose sleeves, skirts, or pant legs. This reduces the chance of coming into contact with an open flame.
If the costume is not brightly colored, it's not easily visible at night. To fix this, add a strip of reflective tape. This is sold at hardware and sporting goods stores.
Around the home
To make your home safe and inviting for trick-or-treaters, leave your front lights on. This gives kids a well-lit path to your door. A well-lit home also reduces your chances of being "tricked" by holiday vandals. Remove items such as planters, hoses, and lawn decorations so your visitors don't trip on them. Keep pets inside.
Place candle-lit jack-o'-lanterns far away from the door. This way tiny goblins won't accidentally brush against them. Keep your indoor jack-o'-lanterns away from curtains and any decorations that could catch fire. The CPSC advises against using candle-lit Halloween luminaries along your walkway. Instead, place flashlights inside the bags.
On the streets
Young children should trick-or-treat with an adult or a responsible older child. Instruct children to stay on the sidewalk and out of the road. Remind them to walk, not run. And be sure they know to only go to houses where they know the people inside. They should also stay away from unfamiliar houses and lawns, where ornaments, furniture, and even tree stumps can cause them to trip. And they should never enter a house, unless they are with a grown-up.
While driving on Halloween, remember that the night will be filled with excited children who may forget their parents' warnings about street safety. Drive extra carefully. And keep an eye out for kids walking between driveways and cars, or crossing in the middle of the block rather than at the corners. Adult Halloween partiers should have a designated driver, of course.
If you are not walking with your children, make sure you know who is with them—and set a time for them to be home. Have them carry a cellphone in case of emergency.
Instruct your kids not to eat any of their goodies until a grown-up has had a chance to carefully examine them.
Make sure the kids eat a healthy meal before trick-or-treating. Then they'll be less likely to over-indulge on candy.
Tips for costume safety
Follow these costume safety tips from the CPSC:
Buy or make costumes that are light and bright enough to be clearly visible to drivers.
It's important that costumes can be seen during dusk and darkness. So decorate or trim them with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights. Bags or sacks should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape.
To easily see and be seen, children should carry flashlights.
Costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping and falling.
Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. High heels are not a good idea for safe walking.
Hats and scarves should be tied securely. This can prevent them from slipping over children's eyes.
Apply a natural mask of cosmetics. This is safer than having a child wear a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or block their vision. If a mask is used, make sure it fits securely. The eyeholes should be large enough for the child to easily see out.
Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material.
Safety tips for pumpkins
Follow these pumpkin safety tips from the CDC:
Carve pumpkins on stable, flat surfaces with good lighting.
Have children draw a face on the outside of the pumpkin; parents should do the cutting.
Place lighted pumpkins away from curtains and other flammable objects.
Don't leave lighted pumpkins unattended.