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Tips for staying safe while trick-or-treating

Monday, October 20, 2008

As trick-or-treaters prepare to hit the streets of Clay County in search of lit porch lights and jack-o'-lanterns, officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control, American Medical Association, National Transportation Safety Board, the Indiana Poison Center and the Indiana State Police have some safety tips to help make Halloween a happy event.

* Costume Safety

When purchasing or creating a Halloween costume, paying attention to the small details can help parents keep children safe.

Purchasing costumes, masks, beards, and wigs with Flame Resistant labels is a good start according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Although the label does not mean these items won't catch fire, it does indicate they will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source.

Avoid creating or making costumes out of clothing made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts or oversized pants to prevent children from getting caught on something and tripping and/or falling.

A child's costume shoes, no matter how adorable they look in daddy's boots or mommy's high heels, need to fit properly to keep them from being injured during a fall.

Make sure costumes have colors that are bright enough to be clearly visible to motorists in twilight and nighttime hours. Use reflective tape.

To see and be seen, children should also carry flashlights (with fresh batteries) to make them visible to pedestrians and motorists alike.

* To accessorize or not

Simulated guns, swords, knives and similar accessories can make the look of an outfit, but can also be dangerous. If such props are a must have for the costume, be certain they do not appear authentic and are soft and flexible to prevent injury.

* Masks versus cosmetics

Being able to see where you're going is important for all spooksters who plan on treat-or-treating.

A loose-fitting mask on a child or adult can potentially restrict breathing or obscure vision. However, if a mask is used, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow a child full vision.

Using a natural mask of cosmetics rather than wearing a mask allows maximum visibility but has its own safety precautions to consider. Choose non-toxic, hypoallergenic cosmetics that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and follow the instructions to prevent adverse reactions.

* Pedestrian Safety

Officials at the National Transportation Safety Board urge adults or older responsible siblings to always accompany young children while trick-or-treating. Halloween is a good opportunity for parents to discuss why it is dangerous to run out from between parked cars, or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, clotheslines or tied out dogs could present dangers.

Children should be cautioned against running from house to house and urged to use the sidewalk if available, rather than walking in the street.

* Choosing Safe Houses

Choosing homes of family, friends and neighbors who have outside lights on as a sign of welcome are the best places for children to trick-or-treat. The American Red Cross urges parents and guardians to talk with their children about why they should not enter homes or apartments unless accompanied with an adult and take the opportunity to discuss "stranger danger." Map out a trick-or-treating route so parents and their children know where they are.

* Appropriate behavior

Halloween is a time for spooky fun, but not everyone is celebrating the holiday appropriately. Regrettably, irresponsible behavior has traditionally gone hand in hand with some older Halloween pranksters.

Officials urge parents to openly discuss various types of appropriate and inappropriate behavior at Halloween time.

Little goblins might need an etiquette reminder on not being greedy. The general rule is usually one piece of candy from each house, and saying "thank you" is a must.

Older goblins, which might have become bored with the childish side of Halloween, should be reminded that mischievous behavior and what some might consider harmless pranks, like throwing corn and toilet paper at houses, has potential -- and possibly dangerous or legal -- consequences.

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