October 27, 2010

Be spooktacularly safe this Halloween

Nothing can scare the sillies out of you like the need to make a trip to the emergency department with your kids on Halloween.

How can you keep witches, ghosts and werewolves as the scariest part of your Halloween experience? Keep safety a priority, say experts in the Winnipeg Health Region.

"With all the excitement of dressing up, trick or treating and gathering Halloween "goodies", it is easy to get caught up in the fun and forget about staying safe. Following these tips can help young trick or treaters and their families have fun and stay safe," says Dr. Lynne Warda a Medical Consultant with the Winnipeg Health Region's Injury Prevention Program IMPACT.

Carving that pumpkin

It starts with the right tools. Make sure your knife is sharp enough to safely carve the pumpkin.

But be sure to keep that knife away from the wee ones. It's not advisable for children to carve pumpkins. Hand them a marker and ask them to draw the face on the pumpkin so you can carve.

Be sure the pumpkin is properly gutted. Hanging pulp can pose a safety risk, particularly if you're using a candle to light your pumpkin. A flat bottom surface can also be helpful when placing lights inside the pumpkin.

About lighting . . . consider artificial lights as an alternative to candles. Some battery operated lights are sold to be used in pumpkins, such as battery-operated tea lights.

Where's your pumpkin? If it's lit, it should be attended. Be sure it's resting on a sturdy table, away from curtains or other items that could catch fire. Keep pets and children away from burning candles.

Costume Safety

There are three key elements to costume safety: proper fit, good night visibility, and flame resistance. The perfect Halloween costume for your child is a highly visible, reflective, well-fitting costume that allows them to clearly see any potential safety hazards.

A dark costume where your child is tripping on the hem and struggling to see through the mask is not your strongest choice. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Your child needs to wear good fitting shoes and costumes that are short enough so they won't trip or become tangled up.

  • Help your child choose costumes that are bright and reflective.

  • Add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags so that your child can be easily seen.

  • Because masks can block eyesight, use non-toxic makeup and hats as safer choices. Hats should fit well so they won't slip over your child's eyes.

  • Buy costumes, wigs and accessories that are labelled "flame resistant".

  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of the costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. These could easily cause injury if your child trips. A flexible sword that won't hurt if your child falls on it is the best type of prop to carry while trick or treating.

  • Incorporating light into your child's costume is a creative way to make sure they can see in the dark and look cool. Consider having them carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.

  • If your child has a unique costume, they'll be easier to pick out of a crowd.

Personal Safety

It's important for your kids to be aware of ways they can keep themselves safe on a good day. It's particularly important for them to be aware of their personal space and have their wits about them on a holiday known for being spooked and pranked.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Young children should be accompanied by an adult.

  • If your older children are going out, know who is with your kids, where they plan to go and set a time for them to return home.

Trick-or-treaters should:

  • Stay in a group.

  • Have a pre-programmed cell phone with them for emergencies.

  • Only go to homes with a light on.

  • Never go in a stranger's home or car for a treat.

Pedestrian Safety

It may seem like second nature to look both ways before crossing the street and be aware of your surroundings. In the hype of costumes and candy, it's easy to miss safety details like crossing the street safely. It may be a good idea to review pedestrian safety basics with your older child before they go out trick or treating and follow these tips when you accompany younger children:

  • Stay on well-lit streets and use the sidewalks.

  • If there are no sidewalks, walk at the side of the road, facing traffic.

  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.

  • Cross the street at intersections.

  • Be extra careful on the streets. Drivers may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will.

Safe alternatives to consider

Trick or treating in the neighbourhood may not be right for your family. You may prefer taking your kids to a community centre, church, mall or to houses of family and/or friends.

Halloween Activities at the library

Halloween Haunts

If you do take the kids to an event at a community centre or church, it's important to be with your children and supervise them.

The haul

The candy your kids pick up from trick or treating is something you need to check before they eat anything. To prevent them from snacking before you have a chance to go through things, make sure they have a filling meal before heading out for the evening.

  • When inspecting your child's candy, throw out anything that is not wrapped.

  • If it looks suspicious or spoiled, throw it out.

  • If your child is under 4 years don't give him/her candy that could be a choking hazard such as small chewy candies, gum, hard round candy ("jawbreakers"), peanuts or small toys.

Driver Safety

If you're behind the wheel on Halloween, you need to be mindful of the fact that the little ones will be out. As such, extra time and an extra watchful eye are a good idea to ensure that neither you nor a little ghoul is in an accident.

  • Drive slower than the posted speed limit.

  • Watch the sidewalks and roadways for children about to cross the street.

  • Be aware of parked cars and other roadside barriers which might reduce pedestrian visibility

  • Check for small children when you're pulling in and out of driveways.

  • Make sure all of your lights turning signals, headlights, brake lights are in good working order.

More safe driving tips on Halloween:

Manitoba Public Insurance Halloween Driving Tips

More reading on Halloween Safety

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Halloween Safety

Halloween Food Safety Tips

Have a Safe and Spooky Halloween

Halloween Safety: Tips for Parents and Kids

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