Halloween can become a scary time for all the wrong reasons. Unsafe costumes, walking in the streets, getting candy from strangers… The risks are real, but there are a number of things you can do to keep your trick-or-treaters safe.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which releases a Halloween Safety Alert each year, always emphasizes the safety of costumes. Customers should look for a tag or label that designates costumes, masks, wigs, and other accessories as “Flame Resistant.” Jack-o-lanterns are typically lit with candles and placed on stair cases, porches, and other places around entryways, posing a fire hazard to children who aren’t mindful of the flames.
Customers should know that a costume labeled as flame-resistant can still catch fire. The label means that the item will resist burning when removed from the flame or other ignition source and should extinguish quickly if it does catch on fire. The CPSC recommends that consumers avoid donning baggy or billowing costumes and costumes that are made of delicate materials. Doing so will minimize the risk of burn injuries.
Costumes should be visible, especially to motorists. Vampires and witches watch out — the CPSC says that costume colors should be “light and bright.” All costumes, regardless of color, should be decorated or trimmed with reflective tape that will glow in a car’s headlight beams. Hardware, sporting goods, and bicycle stores normally sell reflective tape.
Because loose hats and scarves can slip over the face and obstruct a child’s vision, they should be tied or safely secured. The CPSC recommends wearing facial makeup rather than masks, but says that if masks are used, they should be secure and not obstruct vision. Accessories such as knives and swords should be made of soft and flexible materials only. To minimize the risk of fall injuries, costumes should be trimmed short enough to prevent kids from tripping. Children should not wear loose or ill-fitting shoes such as high heels when walking from house to house.
As an extra precaution, all children should carry flashlights, which will help them to walk safely in the dark while making them even more visible to cars. (Please note there is a recall on a type of Halloween flashlight sold exclusively at Target stores.)
When trick or treating, adults or older children should always accompany young children. Because kids can sometimes be excited and anxious to get to the next house, the CPSC stresses that children should not run but WALK from house to house. Supervisors should remind children to walk on the sidewalk if there is one, not to run out from between parked cars, and not to run across yards. Both the darkness and costumes can impair vision, making it easy for children to run into lawn ornaments, furniture, clotheslines, and other dangers.
Children should avoid darkened homes or homes where the residents are not known. Homes that celebrate Halloween typically leave an outside light on as a sign of welcome and display Halloween decorations. Children should never enter a home unless they are accompanied by an adult.
People who remain at home to welcome trick-or-treaters should remove obstacles from the lawn, steps and porches. Any candle-lit jack o’lanterns should be kept clear of landings, doorsteps, and balusters where they may come in contact with costumes and create a fire. They should also be kept away from decorations, curtains, furniture, and other objects that can catch fire.
When the trick or treating is over, it is important that adults carefully inspect the candy that the children have collected, discarding any open, unsealed, and suspicious looking packages.
Be mindful of your pets’ safety too! Be sure to keep cats indoors where they are safe from monsters. Keep dogs in a safe place, too, where they won’t be upset by strangers or people wearing costumes. While the evening may be light and festive, it can turn deadly for a pet that consumes alcohol, chocolate, and other substances toxic to animals.