Happy Halloween! Tips to Keep it Safe

Help your kids have a great Halloween with these smart strategies.
- Jane Farrell, BettyConfidential.com
These days, Halloween’s a huge holiday: Drive down any suburban street, and chances are that most of the houses will be festooned with glowing pumpkins, tiny hanging ghosts and flying witches. But with all that preparation comes some real hazards for kids, both before the holiday and during it. Here, some expert tips on how to handle the really scary parts of Halloween:

The perils of the pumpkin
If you really want a hand-carved pumpkin, do it yourself. It’s not a project for kids. And it’s best to use a knife designed especially for pumpkin carving, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Carve with small controlled strokes on a steady, smooth surface. Illuminate the pumpkin with a glow stick or small flashlight; that’s much less hazardous than candles. Of course, you can take the easy way out and just paint a face on the pumpkin!

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Safe costumes, safe streets
Kids trick-or-treating on Halloween night are four times likelier to be hit by cars than on any other night, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And sometimes their costumes have more to do with that than you might think. Of course, experts advise making sure your kids don’t suddenly run across the street. But it’s also a good idea to choose a brightly colored, highly visible costume and to stick a noticeable piece of reflective tape on it, as well as on the child’s treat bag. The costume should be loose enough so your little princess can turn her head to see any oncoming traffic, but not so big that she’s tripping over her hem. Kids are also more easily visible to drivers when they’re trick-or-treating in groups. If you’re in the driver’s seat, make sure to travel very, very slowly down streets where kids are out in force.

 

Emergency prep for older kids
Experts generally recommend that parents accompany kids up to age 12 so you can make sure they follow safety principles like not going to any dark houses and refusing to accept candy from anyone on the street. But once kids are past 12 and want to go on their own, there are a few safety measures parents should take: Give them a curfew. Make sure they take a flashlight, wear a watch and have a cell phone, or money to call you. They should also go only in groups and only on routes you know about.

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Make sure treats aren’t tricks
The good news: Incidents of kids getting poisoned candy or razor blades in apples are few and very far between. The bad news: It does happen. Safety experts, from police to pediatricians, uniformly advise parents to take a look at their child’s haul, before he starts wolfing it down, and to throw away any unwrapped treats. You should carefully inspect even wrapped treats (a Minneapolis man was arrested in 2000 after he put needles in the bottom of wrapped candy bars).

Don’t forget about your pets!
When choosing a costume for your dog (99% of cats just won’t put up with that), use the same safety precautions you would in picking an outfit for your kids or yourself. Make sure it’s loose enough so that your pet can move freely and see what’s going on around him. With an animal, a costume is enough – paint or makeup can be toxic. If your dog is walking with you or your kids, keep him on a leash: He may become frightened enough by unfamiliar sounds to run away. If your cat is an outdoor cat, keep her inside on Halloween night. And as for pets of either species who just want to stay in the house, give them a “safe” area where they don’t have to hear the doorbell ring repeatedly. When the trick-or-treating’s over, give them a few pet treats as a reward (no actual candy, though; chocolate, especially, can even be fatal).