Halloween is an exciting holiday for school-aged kids and many of us kids at heart! Children enjoy picking out their costume, making special treats, picking out a pumpkin, carving a jack-o-lantern, attending Halloween parties and trick-or-treating. When we wait all month for this special day to arrive, we want to make sure the festivities are fun for everyone involved. Having a safe Halloween will help make cherished memories for both you and your children.
Halloween is likely to rank high on most kids list of favorite holidays, but their anticipation and excitement can make them vulnerable to injuries and accidents during Halloween celebrations. Halloween-related incidents can involve a number of hazards, including burns from flammable costumes that come into contact with open flames (particularly candles used to illuminate jack-o-lanterns); falls and abrasions from ill-fitting costumes, shoes, and accessories; and fires caused by burning candles left unattended, near combustible decorations or knocked over by kids and pets.
The following safety precautions have been suggested by The American Academy of Pediatrics, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association.
All dressed up
• Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes (including robes, capes and gowns) are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
• Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes, especially if colors are dark, for greater visibility at night by motorists.
• Be more visible by carrying candy in a white or brightly-colored bag. Alternatively, put reflective tape on the bag.
• When making a costume at home, use fabrics that inherently are flame resistant, such as nylon and polyester.
• If a costume requires a mask or other face covering, you should be able to see clearly and breathe easily at all times. Unless the mask is clipped to your hair or costume, take it off when walking between houses.
• Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives.
• Read the packaging before using any makeup, and follow the application instructions carefully. Be especially careful when applying makeup near eyes.
• Do not leave any makeup on overnight. Follow the removal instructions carefully and use the recommended products. Again, be careful when cleaning the area around eyes.
• Wigs and accessories should clearly indicate they are flame resistant. Make sure that scarves, sashes, and hats are worn securely and do not block vision.
• If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
• Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
• Teach children how to call 911 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
• The safest Jack-o-lanterns are those with painted faces. Kids can use markers, paint, and even glue on embellishments to create a fun or scary pumpkin designs.
• Kids under the age of 14 should not do the actual carving or cutting. Have your child draw their design on the pumpkin, but let an adult carve it to avoid accidental lacerations and puncture wounds to the hands and fingers.
• Use special pumpkin carving tools instead of kitchen knives. Pumpkin carving kits are easy to find in most stores in the weeks before Halloween. These tools are usually smaller, less sharp, and easier to control than a kitchen knife and less likely to cause a laceration or puncture wound. Make sure to use a well-lit, stable, dry surface to work on. Keep hands and tools clean and dry to minimize slips.
• Votive candles are safest type of candle to use in a carved pumpkin.
• Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.
• If you do put candles in pumpkins or paper bags, set them back from the walkway so that long costumes will not fall into the flames.
• Battery-operated flameless candles and other flameless lighting are safe alternatives to traditional candles. This reduces the chances of decorations catching fire.
Decorating a safe home
• To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and yard anything a child could trip over, such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
• Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
• To create a spooky atmosphere, use colored light bulbs or theatrical gels to change the color of your porch light. Do not use plastic wrap because it could melt or cause a fire. If you use cloth, do not drape it over the bulb, and make sure that it is not touching the bulb at all.
• Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater. Also, keep pets and children away from candle lit jack-o-lanterns or luminaries.
• A parent or responsible adult should plan to accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds. Even if it is cold outside, do not be tempted to drive your child from house to house. The best safety measure is to walk with your child from house to house so that they are sure to be seen in the dark.
• Trick-or treating alone is not safe. If you allow an older child to go trick-or-treating with a group of friends, be sure to plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home. Bring a cell phone, walkie talkies, or pin your child’s name and telephone number in their pocket or on their costume, in case someone should get hurt, lost or separated from the group.
• Encourage children to walk, not run; stay on sidewalks and driveways to avoid damaging plants or tripping over obstacles. Do not cut across yards or use alleys. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic. Running or riding a bicycle while wearing a costume may be hazardous, so walk from house to house to prevent injuries.
• Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks, as available. Never cross between parked cars or out driveways. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters, so do not assume that a passing car will see you.
• Carry a flashlight so you can see where you are walking and so others can see you. Do not walk near luminaries or jack-o-lanterns.
• Don’t try to pet dogs or cats, even if you know them. Friendly pets may not recognize you in your costume.
• Trick-or-treat in your own or a familiar neighborhood. Never go into a house or apartment unless your parents are with you. Avoid darkened houses; only visit those with a front porch light turned on. Never go into a stranger’s home. Accept treats at the door. Never accept treats from a stranger in a car or truck. Never get in a car with a stranger.
• Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
Happy, healthy Halloween
• A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats. Eating a small meal or sandwich can curb hunger and make children less likely to sample goodies before they have had time to let their parents check them over.
• If you are answering the door and giving out treats, offer non-candy substitutes such as prepackaged fruit snacks, pretzels, or sealed boxes of raisins. Treats do not have to be edible — items such as pencils, coloring books, stickers, or small toys add variety to a trick-or-treater’s haul.
• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items. Check wrappers carefully for signs of tampering such as discolorations, pinholes, and small tears. Any opened packages and homemade food or candy should be thrown away.
• Try to ration sugary treats for the days following Halloween. Too much candy on Halloween night can mean a stomachache. Store candy out of sight and allow children to choose it as a dessert or an occasional snack.
From all of the staff at the Archuleta County Extension Office and 4-H Program, we wish everyone a fun, safe and happy Halloween.
Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.
Oct. 23 — Master Gardener planning meeting, 10 a.m.
Oct. 24 — Archuleta County Fair Board meeting, 6 p.m.
Learn more about our upcoming events on our webpage at www.archuleta.colostate.edu.