Halloween Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

Filed under: Holidays, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens

Trick-or-treating shouldn't be frightening for parents. With some common sense and an eye toward safety, it'll be a fun evening for all.
Halloween Safety
Halloween is a magical night where the world of make-believe comes alive for kids. But for parents, it's about keeping kids safe. ParentDish talked to experts to get the safety tips you need.
Underwriters Laboratories

Halloween Safety

    Always check your decorations for "loose connections, frayed or bare wires and broken or cracked sockets," says Underwriters Laboratories' director of consumer safety John Drengenberg.

    UL recommends using plastic hooks or clips to reduce the risk of electric shock and fire hazards and never nailing or stapling light strings.

    Outdoor decorations should always have a red UL symbol; if using an extension cord, be mindful not to pinch it under a doorway or window, which can lead to a smoldering fire.

    And make sure candles are never left unattended. In the event of a fire, close the door to the room where the fire is and get everyone out of the home, says Lt. Anthony Mancuso, director of fire safety education for the New York City Fire Department and 26-year veteran. Call 911 from outside.

    Underwriters Laboratories

    This frightening image provided by Underwriters Laboratories, shows how costumes can go up in flames if they are made of the wrong materials.

    "The point where a child can potentially be burned is just a few seconds," says UL's John Drengenberg.

    Always buy flame-resistant or flame-retardant costumes and wigs, a quality that will appear on the label. Fuzzy costumes will burn a lot quicker than more streamlined versions.

    Modacrylics and 100 percent polyester are flame retardant and the best fabric options for homemade costumes, says Lt. Anthony Mancuso, of the New York City Fire Department.
    Mancuso recommends children tie back long hair as a precaution against it catching fire.

    In the event a costume does catch fire, immediately put him on the ground and roll him to smother the flames.

    Underwriters Laboratories

    Ill-fitting costumes contribute to an increase in injuries from slipping and tripping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Dr. Julie Gilchrist with the CDC's Injury Center recommends using costumes that are not too long and have appropriately fitting shoes.

    This is especially true of country kids who walk through long, gravel driveways and grassy yards, says Underwriters Laboratories' Drengenberg.

    Clear walkways of debris before trick-or-treaters come out and keep walkways well-lit and free of decoration to avoid possible injury.

    (JSR), Flickr

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adding to costumes some reflective tape, which can be purchased at hardware stores. Also, kids should carry flashlights so drivers can see trick-or-treaters at dusk and later.

    This is especially true for kids in rural areas, says Underwriters Laboratories' Drengenberg.

    "Purchase or make costumes from light-colored material," says Drengenberg. Light and bright fabrics will be clearly visible to motorists. One classic option that fits the safety bill? The Mummy.

    D'Arcy Norman, Flickr

    According to Dr. Julie Gilchrist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Center, "Pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children treated in emergency departments on Halloween."

    Safe Kids USA reports children are more than twice as likely to get hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year.

    City kids are safer choosing makeup over masks so their peripheral vision is unencumbered. "If a mask is used, make sure it fits securely and has eye holes large enough to allow full vision," says Underwriters Laboratories' Drengenberg. Always follow traffic signs and signals and use crosswalks and sidewalks.

    The Way You Do Everything, Flickr

    Parents should always accompany kids to doors, says Nancy McBride, national safety director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

    Trick-or-treaters should never go into homes unaccompanied or near a home that is not well-lit. "Make sure you know the neighborhood," McBride says.

    Children should also be weary of vehicles, whether they are occupied or not, since 70 percent of abduction attempts employ a vehicle, according to McBride.

    If you're in a low-density rural area, consider attending an organized party rather than venturing into an unfamiliar neighborhood, McBride recommends.

    Advise your children to make a scene and yell loudly if someone does try to grab them ; kicking, screaming and using resistance can help children get out of danger.

    Justin D Miller, Flickr

    Plan in advance to have a designated guardian with children at all times, says Nancy McBride, of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

    Anyone a parent trusts is suitable and age doesn't necessarily matter. Older siblings are one option.

    "It depends on the maturity of the child and whether you feel confident your child wants to take on that responsibility," says McBride. "That's a conversation you have as a family."

    Use technology to stay in touch and give kids guidelines for using it. Walking and texting is not a good idea – especially on suburban streets where kids share roadways with cars commuting home during prime trick-or-treating hours -- and have set check-in times.

    Ron Lemise, Flickr

    When you're in high-density areas, like downtown Manhattan during New York City's annual Halloween parade, keeping track of one another can be a challenge. Group costume themes or accessories can help children quickly identify their companions in a crowd.

    "I take this back to the whole theme-park approach," says Nancy McBride, of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "A group of friends can organize to all wear orange sweatbands."

    The New York City Police Department recommends parents place emergency contact information in a discreet place inside children's costumes in case of separation.

    Herkie, Flickr

    Let's face it -- Halloween is all about the candy.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kids eat only factory-wrapped treats. That means if that neighbor you've never really spoken to on the other side of your suburban development hands out homemade brownies, you should probably chuck them.

    "If you know the person who made that treat, I think you should use good common sense," says Nancy McBride, of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

    Underwriters Laboratories director of consumer safety John Drengenberg recommends checking small toys that children might get in goody bags for choking hazards. "Anything that fits through the inside cardboard cylinder of a toilet paper roll could be small enough to get stuck in a child's airway," says Drengenberg.

    Juushika Redgrave, Flickr

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.