Halloween may be scary but it doesn’t have to be hazardous. Yet, it is imperative that parents become educated about these potential dangers and take the necessary precautions to keep children and pets safe.
In fact, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other night of the year. In addition, falls and burns are also a common cause of injuries among children.
Here are some pointers to ensure a fun, safe and happy Halloween:
1. Make sure your child’s costume (including beards, masks and wigs) is clearly marked as flame resistant or look for flame resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester. Avoid billowing or long trailing features, especially those made of lightweight fabrics or materials.
Your child should wear well-fitting shoes to prevent trips and falls. Costume accessories, including swords and knives, should be soft and flexible.
2. Consider non-toxic makeup instead of a mask. Facial gear can obstruct the child’s vision or restrict breathing. If they do wear a mask, make sure the child can see and breathe easily.
3. Decorate costumes, bags and sacks with reflective tape or stickers. Reflective tape and stickers will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Equip your child with a flashlight or glow stick to illuminate pathways and curbs. Make sure to stay on well-lighted streets.
4. Unless your pet really enjoys it, avoid the temptation to dress up your dog or cat in a costume. If you decide to do so, be sure that the costume doesn’t interfere with the pet’s ability to breathe, see, hear, move, or bark or contain small or dangling accessories that may be chewed off and cause a choking or intestinal obstruction. Supervise your pets in their costume at all times.
Don’t be disappointed! You can still snap an adorable photo of your pet in the costume.
5. The safest place for your pet is in a secure area within your home where they won’t have a chance to be spooked by strangers or dart outdoors. In case your pet does escape, make sure they are wearing collars with ID tags. Remember that even the sweetest animal can act differently in new situations, or even become violent when they feel threatened.
During the Halloween season, it’s not a good idea to leave your pets outdoors, even if you have a fenced in yard. Keep your animals safe from vicious pranks.
6. Do not let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult. For guidance and safety sake, accompany younger children to the door of every home they visit.
7. Be sure that teens go trick-or-treating in a group. They should be taught to only stop at familiar homes and those with an outside light on. Make sure they know that they should not go inside any home or apartment. Your child should carry a fully charged cell phone.
8. Pack along some bottled water and healthy snacks so kids don’t get hungry. You don’t want children munching on Halloween candy before there is a chance for you to inspect it. Toss out any homemade treats and anything suspicious. Also, toss any food or treats that may pose a choking hazard for your young child or an allergy risk.
It’s also important to carry and use alcohol- based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers to help keep everyone’s hands clean and reduce the spread of germs.
9. Keep your Halloween goodies out of the reach of pets. Chocolate is toxic for animals, particularly dogs. In addition, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and sugarless chewing gum and products containing xylitol are poisonous to pets. Wrappers are dangerous, too as they can cause an intestinal obstruction.
10. Illuminate jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks. Avoid Candles. Curious children and pets may get burned by the flame or knock it over and cause a fire. Candles also pose a danger to trick-or-treaters who may come in contact with the open flames and ignite their costumes.
Debra Holtzman has a law degree, an M.A. in occupational health and safety (OSHA), is an award-winning author and mom. In addition to practicing law, Debra has worked as a safety and health consultant and has inspected numerous plants and factories for hazardous working conditions. She has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Dateline, ABC News and Discovery Health Channel and was named an “Everyday Hero” by Reader’s Digest. Her new book, ‘The Safe Baby: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living” (Sentient Publications, 2009) provides money savings tips and easy-to-implement solutions to provide a safe, healthy, and green-living lifestyle for children and pets. It also shows you how to get back to the basics of childrearing. Debra also teaches infant and toddler safety and CPR at a regional hospital and is a certified child passenger safety technician. http://www.thesafetyexpert.com/