September 1, 2013 – I love everything about Hallowe'en from creating great costumes and carving the jack o' lantern to decorating the porch with tiny orange twinkle lights! Hearing a knock at the front door puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face as I greet the children who enthusiastically say, "Trick or treat." As the candy is being shelled out, I see the faces of anxious but happy parents in the background and am ever so thankful for their concerned and protective presence. We make eye contact and give each other 'the nod' as an act of reassurance that all is well on this magical Hallowe'en night.
Hallowe'en related injuries are preventable if you follow these basic safety tips and supervise your children closely during trick-or-treat activities. The safety tips listed below will enable your children to have a fabulous time trick-or-treating and give every parent and guardian that piece of the mind and assurance that they want and need.
- An adult should accompany trick-or-treaters under the age 12 at all times.
- If you decide your child is old enough to go trick-or-treating with friends make sure:
- they travel as a group
- a route of travel has been established and agreed upon
- a curfew has been established and agreed upon
- offer to just 'tag along' in the distance
- Children should be instructed to use the walkways rather than crossing through yards to avoid dark or deserted looking homes.
- Teach your children to NEVER enter a house unless they have your permission.
- Children are not accustomed to being out after dark so it is wise to review pedestrian safety rules. Instruct children to stay on one side of the street at a time. Criss-crossing back and forth across a street is not safe. It also takes more time - that means less Hallowe'en treats.
- Well-lit streets in neighbourhoods that you know provide the best trick-or-treat route.
- Always stay in your own neighbourhood and if your children require help make sure they know where they can go to receive help.
- Teach your children to stay away from strangers, to refuse to approach or climb inside cars, and to stay away from stray animals.
- Give children a flashlight to use while trick-or-treating. It will increase visibility and it is also a fun and exciting tool for trick-or-treating.
- Most apartment and condominium buildings only allow residents to give out candy in the front lobby. If this is not the case, we recommend that you take your children into the building floor by floor - and then, only if you are very familiar with the building.
- Regardless of the costume your child chooses, add some reflective tape or use fluorescent or bright colours to make your child more visible to motorists and other trick-or-treaters. You can also apply glow in the dark stickers or reflective tape to your child's trick-or-treat bag or use a fluorescent bag.
- Although it may be comical to see your child in oversized clothing, it isn't safe. Even older children can trip over their costumes if they are too long. It is also a good idea to dress your children in sturdy shoes and avoid clumsy footwear.
- Sometimes Hallowe'en can be a chilly night so make sure that costumes are loose enough to be worn over warm clothing.
- The Hallowe'en costume should be safe and non-flammable. Look for flame-resistant labels on costumes, masks and other Hallowe'en gear. Use flame-resistant fabric for homemade costumes. Even if costumes are flame resistant don't take any chances - keep your child a safe distance from any lit jack-o'-lanterns or candles.
- Masks are designed to look funny or scary but they can obstruct a child's vision and also make it difficult to breathe. Consider using face paint or makeup. Look for non-toxic, hypo-allergenic paint or makeup instead of masks, especially for very young children. It also might be more fun! Most children really like 'face-painting!
- Accessories such as wands and swords should be soft and flexible, not rigid or sharp.
- Wigs and beards should not cover your child's eyes or mouth and make sure headgear doesn't slide over your child's face.
- Make sure your children understand the importance of having all candy and other treats inspected by their parents. Younger children may need an adult to hold their treat bags so that the temptation to taste 'just one piece' isn't so great.
- Inspecting every treat your child receives is very important. Too many children have choked, some fatally on candy, gum, small toys, coins, etc. Others have suffered severe allergic reactions because a treat contained trace amount of nuts, etc.
- When shelling out candy to young trick-or-treaters do not give them treats such as gum, peanuts, and hard candies – they can present potential choking hazards.
HALLOWE'EN TIPS - JUST FOR ADULTS
Hallowe'en countdown includes the annual selection and carving of that perfect pumpkin. Let your children draw out the face on the pumpkin but never let them handle the knife or do the carving. Let them clean up instead!
- Keep candles, jack-o-lanterns, matches and lighters in a high place where children cannot reach them.
- Always place a lit jack-o'-lantern away from curtains and other flammable objects. Keep it out of the path of trick-or-treaters. Never leave lit pumpkins unattended. Using a light bulb or flashlight is a safer alternative.
- When trick-or-treating is over inspect your child's loot. If anything is not wrapped, looks suspicious, torn, opened or tampered with, throw it away. Even candy that is well wrapped may pose a choking hazard. Homemade treats or fruit should only be eaten if you know the giver. If your child has food allergies, be very careful. If anything is or looks questionable, throw it out.
- Parents and adults should ensure the safety of pedestrian trick-or-treaters by driving very slowly and defensively. Don't assume that an excited youngster in a costume will move as quickly as you expect.
- Keep a keen eye for trick-or-treaters darting out from between parked cars. Watch out for children in the street and on medians, exit driveways, and alleyways.
- When driving the kids around the neighbourhood, have them exit the car on the curb side, not the traffic side.
- Replace burned-out bulbs in the exterior light fixtures of your property. Leave your exterior lights on later than usual.
- Prepare your home for trick-or-treaters by clearing the pathway. Make sure the path to your door is well-lit and your lawn is clear of objects that children could trip over, such as jack-o'-lanterns with lit candles, ladders, garden hoses, flowerpots, bikes, etc. Sweep wet leaves from sidewalks and stairs so that children do not slip and fall.
- Keep pets inside and away from trick-or-treaters and lit candles, especially if they are easily frightened or become over-excited in the presence of strangers.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT COSTUMES!
- Experts say that the current government-mandated tests and standards are inadequate to judge the safety of Hallowe'en costumes.
- Manufacturers and importers are not required to test fabrics or pieces of clothing for fire safety - even those with fire-retardant labels.
- Flame-retardant is not flameproof. Tests showed some materials with fire-retardant labels actually burned more quickly than materials with labels that read 'keep away from fire'. As such, the fire-retardant label gives parents a false sense of security.
- Thin, flimsy or mesh-type Hallowe'en costumes should be avoided. In one test, the white mesh skirt on an angel costume took one second to ignite. A small label reading 'keep away from flame' was on the back of the packaging.