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Tricks? Or Treats?

How to stay safe this Halloween

October 30, 2011
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

Safety first!

This classic phrase always has a place among details to be respected in both the planning and in the enjoying phases of annual Halloween celebrations.

Remembering to employ some basic, common sense safety guidelines and practices can make the annual festivities something everyone can look forward to enjoying.

A key element in any family safety plan includes making sure children know how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number), and they know it is the right thing to do if they have an emergency or become lost.

Some of the easy to implement practices for safe family Halloween fun comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics and making it part of your seasonal safety checklist can make all the difference in the type of experience you have to look back on-whether in the pages of a family memory album about this spirited seasonal tradition or sharing details of the festivities with the world on Facebook or Twitter.

Thinking ahead when putting together or purchasing a costume is a key to enjoying a safe Halloween.

Experts from the AAP's suggestions begin with a well established basic: the necessity to choose costumes for all trick-or-treaters that are bright and do a good job of reflecting light.

Make sure shoes fit well and all parts of a costume are short enough to prevent tripping or the fabric getting tangled around a child's shoes, stepped on by another person, or becoming snagged in porch floor board edges, doors or even the car door.

Letting any part of a costume come into contact with an open flame-such as something as seemingly harmless as the flame in a jack-o-lantern-must be avoided regardless the age of the costumed trickster, as that can instantaneously bring life-altering dangers into the scenario, changing what should be good fun into a very real nightmare scenario.

One of the very best things Halloween wardrobe planners can do to ratchet up the intensity-and hope for success-of their easy-to-do and effective safety add-ons is to purchase a roll of reflective tape and go to twon adding a personal touch to a costume.

Safety experts also recommend adding reflective tape or striping to trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility. Yes, pillow cases masquerading for a night as goodie carriers can even be easily transformed into a helpful safety snack catch-all with the simple, and temporary, addition of reflective materials.

Moving on to the topic of the famed Halloween mask-is wearing one safe or does it automatically invite trouble?

Most safety experts vote in favor of Halloween revelers leaving the masks at home.

Safer alternatives to traditional masks are more readily available to just about everyone today than ever. Non-toxic makeup and decorative hats are safer alternatives which are easy to locate, to use and to inject with a person's own artistic sense of Halloween artistry.

Choosing to add a fun hat to a costume ensemble is easy and inexpensive, but experts remind celebrators to make sure they fit well and do not fall or slide down over a person's eyes. Using clips or some other means of holding the item in place for the fun-filled festivities is another small item to employ that can easily have a very positive influence on the true enjoyment factor of Halloween fun.

When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories safety professionals again advise a reflection on the basics, which has long included being sure to purchase items which are identified clearly as being flame resistant.

What would any modern day, Halloween-frenzied wardrobe be without swords, canes, wands and walking staffs being wielded by young and old alike among the costumed masses making their way from home to home?

Well, before your family and friends are about to head out the door to visit favorite neighbors during any Halloween celebration, take the time to make certain any prop item to be used with a costume is a size small enough to be safely handled throughout the activity.

Not only should they be checked for points and sharp edges, but they should also be made short enough so as to pose as little risk of tripping and falling as is possible.

The standard is simple to employ, say safety professionals: if in doubt about the safety of a costume accessory or a prop, simply decide to leave it at home.

Making sure everyone has a flashlight they can easily carry-and which has been loaded with fresh batteries for an evening of trick or treat-will prove helpful and even reassuring to have handy when trying to literally see what is in front of you before you leap onto the next step, sidewalk or favorite neighborhood shortcut path.

A little advance preparation may sound like it is something meant to take the fun out of Halloween, but safety professionals agree it is meant to do just the opposite.

Part of that preparation should include reminders of who is taking part in your trick or treat entourage; reinforcing the chain of command for the duration of the activity; reaffirming the central rule that no treat is to be consumed until after arriving home and allowing adults to screen all the goodies gathered during the Halloween hysteria; and never being out of sight of the adults overseeing a trick or treat troupe; and never separating from the pack or leaving your assigned "buddy" behind.

With the advent of cosmetic contact lenses, healthcare professionals and eyewear pros remind consumers it is never a good-or safe-idea to use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination. These lenses should only be obtained through the use of a prescription from an eye care professional.

Bypassing these basic and responsible steps can prevent damage which can easily last well beyond the expiration dates of just about any candy.

There are even laws against such transactions. Experts advise ignoring claims of such as "one size fits all," or "no need to see an eye specialist." Buying and using such products is not only ill-advised, it also is illegal and can cause pain, inflammation and even serious eye disorders and infections severe enough to possibly lead to permanent vision loss.

Preparing your home's entry area for safe visits from small children and adults is another item in the must do category, and one often forgotten altogether-that is until someone is needlessly injured.

A very helpful recommendation which immediately improves the general safety of the area trick or treating friends and neighbors will likely travel to get to your door is simply remembering to remove porch and front yard furniture, hoses, toys, bikes and even yard decorations.

It is also important to make sure your yard and porch lights are in working order, making it the perfect time to replace damaged or burned-out light bulbs.

Other easy-to-address basic safety items to attend to before your guests arrive include making sure your steps and sidewalks are free of clutter, including any leaves-particularly wet leaves.

Pet care professionals also remind animal owners this is not the time to let your cat or dog roam freely, regardless how well they are under normal circumstances. Make sure they are safely restrained so they avoid opportunities to inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

Pet owners are also reminded this is a time of year to be particularly vigilant against those well-meaning individuals of all ages who willingly-or accidentally-end up supplying pets with chocolate or candy of any kind, as these items can seriously threaten the health of any pet.

Making sure everyone in your family or trick or treating group know details of where they will be going, the agreed upon route and reinforcing the times and places where the festivities for your group will begin and end will provide the very best treat of all-a safe and fun-filled Halloween.



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