Fall brings many recreational activities such as football, trips to the pumpkin patch, hayrack rides and, of course, Halloween. As a child growing up in a small Nebraska town in the late 70s and early 80s, Halloween was fun and fairly safe. The worst we had to worry about was scraped knees or getting sick from eating too much candy. As time went by and we became more aware of how dangerous the world was becoming, we had to increase our safety. We began to realize it was no longer safe to go out alone and could not eat unwrapped or unsealed candy. As we think of safety this Halloween season, remember not to overlook those basic rules. Always carry a flashlight and travel in groups. This year expand your safety to include some less obvious safety risks of Halloween.
Costumes have changed a great deal over the years. My first costume was Jiminy Cricket, which was basically a cheap plastic mask and green smock. The days of the mask have been overtaken by face paint and makeup. Be sure to test the paint or makeup on a small patch of skin prior to Halloween night to avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room and look for face paint that has the FDA approved list of color additives, especially if your child tends to have allergies. Ensure that all makeup has been removed with soap and water prior to going to bed to prevent a breakout or staining on your clothes or skin. Be aware that although cosmetic contact lenses may look cool, they can lead to very serious eye infections. Remember never to share contact lenses with friends or family members and always wash your hands when putting contacts in or taking them out.
If you or your child chooses a mask in lieu of paint, remember to check the mask for sharp edges and make sure there is enough room in the mask to breathe comfortably. Adults should limit intake of black licorice as it can cause potassium levels to fall which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure in adults. Obviously certain activities can also increase your susceptibility to germs, such as bobbing for apples or sharing drinks or food at a party. Remember that the cold and flu season has already begun and these activities can spread germs.
If you choose not to trick or treat with your children, be sure to check your state’s website for sex offenders and do not allow your children to trick or treat at these houses. Make sure you know the route your children are taking and if possible, make sure an adult travels with the group of trick or treaters. Ensure that your children understand there is a firm curfew on Halloween night, so you know when your children are supposed to be safely home. Make sure your children have a cell phone available to call if they are delayed. Warn your children about the flammable nature of clothing they may be wearing and advise them to keep their distance from lit jack-o-lanterns.
Lastly, ensure your children know the difference between a harmless trick and vandalism or criminal behavior. Above all, remember to warn your children not to get into a car, enter a house or even talk to strangers. If they are approached by a stranger and feel uncomfortable, they should scream and run away as fast as possible. All children should know how to safely cross the street and to look out for smaller children. Halloween should be a fun time for the entire family, so be careful and enjoy the holiday!