Halloween is supposed to be a bit spooky. But the scary stuff is supposed to be pretend: ghosts, vampires, goblins and witches.
You shouldn’t have to worry about the dangers of your kids being out in traffic after dark, costumes catching fire or anything else that can make the tricks and treats anything but fun. But in 2011, there were more than 3,500 Halloween related injuries across the country reported in the festive months of October and November, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Those included burns, falls and even lacerations from pumpkin carving.
Fortunately, there are a few easy steps to remember to make sure that the only surprises on Halloween are the ones you plan. Most of these are common sense and things you might remember from when you were a kid.
Prevent Costume Catastrophes
Trick-or-treating often occurs at dusk, when jack-o-lanterns on porches hold flickering candles and make-believe pirates wield their trusty swords — eek! Check out these tips to steer clear of costume catastrophes.
- Opt for flame-resistant costumes. The CPSC recommends looking for fabrics like nylon or polyester. The label should even say “flame-resistant.” Be wary of long capes, big sleeves and anything else that can catch a candle flame.
- Make sure your kids can see. The Chicago Police Department says face paint allows for better vision than a mask. Check that hats and scarves are secure, as well — no falling down in front of the eyes.
- Make sure your kids can be seen. Think bright-colored costumes, with reflective tape on dark colors and treat bags. Carry flashlights, too.
- No tripping. High heels or too-big shoes aren’t a good idea. Also watch for trip hazards from costumes.
- Those weapons shouldn’t be a weapon. Creepy costume accompaniments such as swords, knives and the like should be made of soft and flexible material.
Avoid Trick-or-Treat Troubles
With costumes donned and bags in hand, consider the following to keep the trick-or-treating experience under control.
- Kids should be accompanied by a parent or adult at all times. Chicago Police recommend that trick-or-treating take place only during daylight hours. Several communities in Northern Illinois have set times and locations for trick-or-treating — some of them take place on a weekend, instead of Thursday, Oct. 31. Check out HauntedIllinois.com for the listings.
- Stick to familiar homes and neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods have signals that their home is accepting trick-or-treaters: The porch light is on, the house is well-lit, or the front screen door is open. Remind your kids never to enter a stranger’s house or car.
- Inspect treats. Check out the candy to ensure it’s fully wrapped. Kids shouldn’t eat treats until an adult has checked them for tampering.
Decorate Without Doing Damage
One way to avoid any trick-or-treat problems is to have a party at home. But even then, you need to be safe while decorating:
- Carve with care: Let the adults do the pumpkin carving. Kids can scoop out the insides and choose the carving pattern. Also, be careful if you use a candle inside. The CSPC recommends keeping your jack-o-lantern away from curtains or decorations that can burn. Another idea is to avoid the knife and candle altogether, and let kids use a marker to draw their favorite scary face on the pumpkin.
- String ‘em up. Make sure the string of lights has been tested by a recognized lab, like Underwriters Laboratories (check for the UL symbol on the tag). Also, replace cracked bulbs and discard strings with frayed wires.
- Clear the way. Help prevent trick-or-treaters tripping by removing obstacles like pumpkins and other decorations from the pathway to your home.
In many ways, Halloween hasn’t changed much since we were kids – it’s about the costumes, the candy and the fun. With a few simple preparations, you can help keep the fun from taking a frightening turn.
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