Halloween Safety for Children

Being in the pediatric Emergency Room on Halloween is no fun.  No child wants to be in the emergency room, but this is especially true on the most candy-filled night of the year.  And having to change from a Sponge Bob costume to a hospital gown does not make it better.  My mother always warned me about eating candy that was not inspected first or eating baked goods from houses of people we did not know.  Although it is certainly reasonable for parents to watch out for such candy related hazards, the biggest danger is actually children being hit by vehicles.  I still vividly remember a 6 year old boy who I saw in the emergency room who was hit by a car while trick-or-treating.  He ran across a narrow neighborhood street after his older brother darted to a new house.  After a one month intensive care unit stay he was able to go home, but his recovery was long.   This story has stuck with me.

Therefore, in preparation for Halloween, I decided to list some common tips to help increase Halloween safety:

The Costume
- Dark costumes are hard to see at dusk or dark.  Consider a light colored costume or adding reflective tape available at hardware stores.
- Masks with small holes make seeing difficult.  Consider face paint instead.
- Avoid costumes that drag along the ground and can lead to falling.

The Street
- Drive extra slow when going through neighborhoods, especially where there are parked cars that children can run out from behind.
- Cross the street with your children as few times as possible by going to all houses on one side, and then switching to the houses on the opposite side of the street.
- Have children trick or treat in groups which includes at least one responsible adult.
- Have children carry a flashlight to help them see and be seen better.

The Candy
- Avoid homemade goods unless you know the neighbor.
- Avoid candy that is not properly wrapped.
- Consider healthier treats for trick-or-treaters, such as individual packs of raisins, trail mix, or pretzels.
- Consider having your children turn their candy into cash through the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program.  This program, usually run out of participating dentist offices, gives one dollar for every pound of Halloween candy.  This candy is, in turn, then sent as part of a care package to troops serving overseas.  Click here for more details.

The home
- Be careful of pumpkins or other decorations with lit candles as they can lead to fire.
- Make sure your smoke detector batteries have been replaced recently.
- Be careful of decorations and wires that can trip or injure children.
For tips about Halloween safety, or Halloween candy visit the St. Louis Children’s Hospital website at www.stlouischildrens.org

Other sources:
US Consumer Product Safety Commission website
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/100.html

CBS news website, article written by Taiana Morales
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/31/earlyshow/living/parenting/main995607.shtml

Center for Disease Control and Prevention website
http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween

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