In case you haven’t noticed the candy and costumes on the shelves of virtually every store—Halloween is right around the corner! As you prepare to help your child choose the perfect Halloween costume, remember to make safety a priority.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the most common Halloween injuries include severe hand injuries from pumpkin-carving accidents, as well as leg and extremity injuries due to falls from long costumes and/or costumes that impair vision. A nine-year study published in the 2010 journal Pediatrics revealed that of all the holidays, Halloween has the fourth highest number of emergency room visits. Between 1997 and 2006, finger/hand injuries, including lacerations and fractures, accounted for the greatest number of injuries (17.6 percent). Children between the ages of 10 and 14 sustained the most injuries.
Here are a few ways you can help prevent injuries:
- Monitor costume accessories. Make sure swords, knives and other accessories are short, soft and flexible.
- Avoid trick-or-treating alone. A trusted adult should accompany smaller children, and older children should travel in groups.
- Remain visible. Trick-or-treating is an after-school activity, and it can last until after dark. Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to increase visibility for drivers, and use flashlights to see and be seen.
- Examine treats. Parents should inspect all treats for tampering and/or choking hazards before allowing children to enjoy them.
- Limit treats. Limit the amount of candy and treats your children eat. Too much candy at one time can cause an upset stomach.
- Test and remove makeup. If makeup is going to be used as part of a costume, always test the makeup on a small area of skin first to ensure it does not cause irritation. Remove makeup at bedtime to prevent skin or eye irritation.
- Avoid decorative contact lenses. Decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye injuries.
- Obey traffic rules. Look both ways before crossing the street, and use crosswalks when available. Walk on the sidewalks, when possible; if there aren’t any sidewalks, walk along the far edge of the road facing traffic.
- Ensure costumes and accessories fit properly. Masks, costumes and shoes should fit properly to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.
- Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid homemade treats made by strangers.
- Carefully choose which homes you visit. Only visit well-lit houses, and enter homes only if accompanied by a trusted adult.
- Avoid accepting rides from strangers.
- Ensure costumes are flame-resistant. As a precaution, avoid walking near lit candles or luminaries while in costume.
- Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
Parents should also supervise children while carving pumpkins. Be sure children use pumpkin carving kits—or knives specifically designed for carving—to avoid injury. Younger children can even use paint, markers or other decorations that do not have sharp edges.
Following these simple safety tips will ensure a fun and safe Halloween—without any unplanned scares!
Lydia Blankenship, R.N., is the trauma program manager at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (St. David’s Emergency Center in Bastrop is an extension of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center).