Tips and tricks for a safe Halloween

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission provides helpful advice to increase the potential of great childhood memories and reduce the possibility of tragedy


This article was originally posted Oct. 29 2009


Every Halloween we worry about a child being hit by a car, being hospitalized for hypothermia, being treated for a possible poisoning, or some other event that turns a fun celebration into a negative occurrence. Prevention and preparation are key for making an event safe and memorable. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and others provide helpful advice and tips to increase the potential of great childhood memories and reduce the possibility of tragedy.

As adults, we need to be sure we don't let our own childhood memories interfere with our current responsibilities regarding our children and young friends. It's not uncommon for our excitement levels surrounding an evening of trick-or-treating to be on par with those of our young charges. Keeping safety at the forefront of your efforts – from the designing of the costume to the inventory of the night's haul – are a few of the key aspects necessary for a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Ensure young goblins and ghosts have adequate and safe openings for seeing and breathing. (Photo/Mass.gov)
Ensure young goblins and ghosts have adequate and safe openings for seeing and breathing. (Photo/Mass.gov)

Halloween Safety

Start with helping the younger children by choosing a costume that is both fun and safe. Make sure that it can provide adequate protection from the elements and does not present a hazard. In Wyoming – as in many areas of the country – we have to be concerned about rain, snow, ice, and wind dominating the weather forecast on any given October 31.

Children need to be dressed in warm clothes and have appropriate boots, gloves, and head gear for whatever Mother Nature throws their way. Bundling the little one up for an arctic expedition during a heat wave can be just as uncomfortable and dangerous as letting a Princess or Spiderman go out in only a T-shirt and leotards at 50. Occasionally, we get to prepare for a nice, comfortable evening with temperatures 10 to 30 degrees above normal – a rarity, but still a consideration. Dressing for the weather and having a contingency plan in case the weather forecaster is actually correct is always the best plan!

Our memories of how restrictive those plastic creature masks were may be clouded by youthful recall and the passage of time. Care must be given to ensure the young goblin has adequate and safe openings for seeing and breathing. The lack of an open visual field can cause these little ones to have less than a full view of the street, traffic, or other obstacles. Failing to see ice, steps, decorations, or sharp objects can result in a fall or other injury. The mouth and nose area of the mask needs to be open to assure adequate ventilations. A restrictive mask can reduce oxygen exchange and potentially create a hypoxic situation, no matter how mild. In cold weather climates, the accumulation of condensation inside a poorly venting mask could lead to mild skin chilling, potentially frost nip, or worse.

Safe, flame-free costumes

Finally, the costume needs to be constructed with a flame resistant material to prevent fire hazards. The use of reflective materials integrated into the costume design is also highly recommended. If the child's costume glows when car or house lights shine, the child's visibility is significantly increased. A flashlight or other laminating object can also increase the child's visibility. Dark clothing may make for a ghastly outfit, but could be a recipe for catastrophe. If your little trick-or-treater is carrying any type of prop – such as a sword, knife, or a gun – make sure it is flexible, soft, and will not injure them or others if it is fallen on or accidentally thrust into ghoulish flesh.

Often older siblings are given the responsibility to take their younger brother or sister out and about. This practice – probably as old as Halloween itself – is one that should be discouraged. Who is the parent? Each age group has a different focus and perspective on what is safe and what is fun; mixing the ages therefore increases the chance for a mishap. Parents need to take responsibility to assure all aspects of making a safe trick-or-treat experience for all involved. The route, the houses to be visited, and rules prohibiting entering any home must all be established prior to leaving home.

Finally, we must also consider the type, placement, and impact of the decorations and props we use to create the holiday mood. Candlelit spooky jack-o-lanterns located on a path where children may walk, where clothing may come in contact with the flame, or where props may knock them over can cause an obvious problem. Placing flammable objects away from the path or using non-flammable illumination technology is the preferred solution.

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