HCA Virginia - October 18, 2018

The scariest place on Halloween may not be a haunted house, but the emergency room! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the 3 most common reasons that children are taken to the ER on Halloween are the result of: 1 

  1. Eye injuries
  2. Flammable costumes
  3. Collisions with cars 

The following guidelines2,3 will help you to make this Halloween a safe one for you and your family:

What to Wear: Ghosts and Ghouls and Goblins, Oh My!

Burn injuries from costumes that catch on fire are one of the primary reasons that kids are taken to the hospital on Halloween. The AAP states, “Candles and jack-o’-lanterns that glow on porches and walkways can ignite flammable costumes, especially baggy ones.” Capes also may be especially dangerous if they come in contact with flames. These costume tips can help keep children safe: 

  1. Costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flames. Baggy costumes also are dangerous if they cause a child to trip while crossing a road.
  2. Only buy costumes, wigs, and accessories with labels that clearly state they are flame-resistant.
  3. Consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives to masks, which might limit or block eyesight.
  4. Your child should wear costumes that are both bright and reflective. You can put reflective tape on costumes and trick-or-treat bags to make them more visible.
  5. Make sure that shoes fit well.
  6. Do not buy costumes with small parts or strings that can choke or strangle smaller children.
  7. Attach emergency identification (name, address, phone number) inside your child’s Halloween costume or on a bracelet.
  8. Use flashlights with fresh batteries.

Keep an Eye Out for Safety

Eye injuries account for a large percentage of ER visits every Halloween. Sword and wand-wielding youngsters unintentionally may injure their friend’s eye, or their own, if they are not careful. 

  1. Think twice before using simulated knives, guns, or swords. If these props are essential to the costume, be sure that they do not look like real weapons and are soft and flexible enough to prevent eye and other injuries.
  2. Any long or pointed object should be avoided as part of a child’s costume.
  3. Avoid pretend contact lenses that are part of a costume. These may add to the authenticity of your character, but also may lead to corneal ulcers.

Pumpkin Carving and Decorating

Pumpkin carving is a fun tradition, but there are some key suggestions to help ensure it is done safely: 

  1. Do not allow small children to carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers and then an adult or older sibling can do the carving.
  2. Supervise older children and have them carve with pumpkin cutters equipped with safety bars.
  3. Use battery-powered candles or glow sticks to light your pumpkins instead of a flame.
  4. If you do have candle-lit pumpkins:
    1. Place them on a sturdy table, well away from curtains and other flammable objects.
    2. Never leave candle-lit pumpkins unattended.

Decorating Safety Tips For Your “Haunted House”

Your decorations may be creepy, but they should not be worthy of a scary trip to the emergency room. To keep decorations safe, follow these tips: 

  1. Remove anything a child can trip over (garden hoses, toys, bikes, lawn decorations, etc.).
  2. Check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  3. Sweep wet leaves away from sidewalks and steps.
  4. Consider fire safety when decorating. Do not overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or special effects.

The Trick to Eating Treats Safely During Halloween

Halloween does not have to scare parents and kids away from eating candy. It just takes a little bit of planning on the part of the parents. To eat treats safely after Halloween, try these tips: 

  1. Instead of candy, consider giving away non-food treats. Although it is tempting to give a piece of fruit, like an apple, it makes it difficult for parents to check for tampering. Instead, give kids colorful pencils, stickers, or large erasers. Having non-candy options also provides choices for children with food allergies.
  2. Children should not snack on their candy while they are trick-or-treating. Make sure your children understand that you need to check all the treats at home before any are eaten.
  3. Once your children get home, sort and check treats carefully and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.
    1. Watch for signs of tampering. These include small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages.
  4. Encourage sharing, but make sure items that can cause choking are given only to those of an appropriate age. Parents of young children should get rid of any choking hazards including gum, peanuts, hard candies, and small toys.

The Trick-or-Treater Checklist

Remind your children that it is important to: 

  1. Use a flashlight so they can see and be seen by others.
  2. Stay in a group and communicate where they are going.
  3. Only go to homes with a porch light on.
  4. Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the farthest edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  5. Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  6. Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.
  7. Obey all traffic and pedestrian regulations.
  8. Do not assume the right-of-way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops does not mean others will.
  9. Always walk across a street —never run.
  10. Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks.
  11. Remove any masks or items that limit eyesight before crossing a street, driveway, or alley.
  12. Follow the planned route and return home at the agreed upon time.
  13. Never eat or drink unwrapped food items that are offered.
    1. Notify police if you see any suspicious or unlawful activities.

Monsters and aliens are not the only scary things out on October 31st. Burns, injuries, or even more serious accidents, can land you in the ER. A little preparation and thought goes a long way in protecting your children and others from harm.