ORLANDO, Fla. – Ghosts and goblins may be scary, but the thought of Halloween illnesses or injuries to trick-or-treaters is even more frightening.
Just like trick-or-treating children, Halloween's hidden dangers come in disguise. The major dangers don't come from witches or spirits but rather from falls and pedestrian/car crashes.
According to a study that looked at holiday-related pediatric emergency room visits between 1997 and 2006, Halloween is among the top three holidays producing the most ER visits. The single most common Halloween injury was finger and hand injuries, with the majority of those being cuts and broken bones.
That's the bad news. The good news is most Halloween accidents are easily preventable. With a little thought and preparation, you can make Halloween safety as easy as pie -- pumpkin pie, that is.
So, without further ado, here are six tips to keep your little monsters safe and healthy this year while ensuring everybody still has some frightful fun:
1. Make sure your own house is in order
Things can get more than a little hectic for parents as Halloween approaches. There are costumes to be bought or made, pumpkins to be procured and carved, candy to be purchased and so much more to be done.
Amid all the worrying about your own children, it can be too easy to forget about all the other kids who will be traipsing through your yard.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests clearing the porch and front yard of anything a child could trip over, such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations. Also, make sure all walking areas are well-lit and that jack-o'-lanterns are placed away from stairways and landings.
It's equally important to check any decoration lights for safety and be sure not to overload extension cords. Of all the hair-raising experiences you could wish for on Halloween, fighting an electrical fire is not one of them.
Lastly, if you have pets, make sure they are restrained on Halloween so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
2. Be extra careful when driving
Halloween safety isn't just for the trick-or-treaters. It's also important for motorists.
Whether you're chauffeuring your children on a candy quest or just driving home from work, the main thing to remember is to drive slowly through neighborhoods.
Be especially careful when exiting driveways and alleyways and always be on the lookout for kids darting out from between cars. According to the National Safety Council, most deaths of young pedestrians happen at spots other than intersections.
If you're driving costumed kids around, make sure they exit the vehicle on the curb side, not on the side facing traffic. Similarly, avoid passing or going around stopped vehicles yourself, as they may be dropping off children, too.
And perhaps the most important tip: Park your mobile devices. Being safe on the roads for Halloween can be tough enough without calling, texting or surfing while driving.
3. Supervise younger children
Many Halloween-related injuries can be prevented if parents closely supervise school-aged children during trick-or-treat activities.
You should make sure to bring along at least one flashlight for yourself. If your kids balk at carrying their own flashlights, wearable glow lights are a cool, fashionable option they're more likely to embrace.
As you go from door to door, be sure to stick close by your children. Halloween can be an excitable night for even the safest kid, so make sure they know to not dart between cars and to always cross at intersections.
If you want to make Halloween even safer, remove traffic and the street from the equation. Consider taking your kids to a local mall or community center for an indoor event or throw your own neighborhood party, complete with decorations, games, a costume contest and, of course, plenty of candy.
They'll be so happy -- not to mention hopped up on sugar -- that they won't even miss going door to door.
4. Pick a safe costume
Whilechildren's costumes ideally should be made of a light-colored material, whatever the color, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends adding some reflective tape for an extra measure of safety.
The CPSC also suggests all costumes and accessories, such as masks, beards and wigs, be flame resistant. And if you are making costumes at home this year, choose inherently flame resistant fabrics, such as nylon and polyester.
To further limit fire danger from candles and jack-o'-lanterns, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.
When trick-or-treaters are going out at night, the worst thing is a mask that restricts their vision, the CPSC said. Parents should consider widening the eyeholes on masks or use face paint instead.
Lastly, when it comes to swords, knives and similar costume accessories, chose ones that are flexible and made of a soft material, not rigid or sharp.
5. Prepare your children before heading out
Remember that there is safety in numbers. If you have older kids who are going door to door without you on Halloween, be sure they travel in small groups, only knock at well-lit houses and never go inside houses unless a trusted adult is along.
Given that texting has practically replaced talking as teens' chosen form of communication, you shouldn't have any trouble convincing them to stash their cellphones in their costumes in case of an emergency. Hey, vampires and zombies need to stay connected too, right?
It's next to impossible to stop kids from snacking from their treat bags on Halloween but, ideally, you want to check their candy before they start eating it. So try to eat dinner early or give them a snack before heading out.
Experts also recommend establishing a curfew for older children and sticking to it.
6. Check your child's candy
When everybody gets home safe and sound, be sure to check the collected candy for potential tampering or other issues before the kids dive into it.
Experts from California State University Channel Islands said that, although tampering isn't common, adults should still closely examine children's treats and dispose of them if they come across any of the following issues:
- An unusual appearance or discoloration.
- Tiny pinholes or tears in wrappers.
- Spoiled or unwrapped items.
- Homemade items or baked goods. Discard them unless you personally know who gave them.
Experts recommend using the motto, "When in doubt, throw it out," while going through your trick-or-treater's goodies.
CSU Channel Islands also suggests keeping the following tips in mind when it comes to spooky celebrations and the days after:
- Tell children not to accept -- and, especially, not to eat -- anything that isn't commercially wrapped.
- If you have young children, remove any choking hazards, such as gum, peanuts, hard candies and small toys.
- Try to apportion treats for the days following Halloween.
- Although sharing is encouraged, make sure items that can cause choking, such as hard candies, are given only to those of an appropriate age.
Finally, don't forget to take your cut of the candy stash. You've earned it.
See the infographic below for more statistics and tips on Halloween safety, courtesy of SafeKids.org.