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As another Halloween is nearly upon us, it’s a good idea to pause to discuss important safety tips for children, as well as teens and adults, who are at risk for holiday injuries.
While parents may be most concerned about risks from tainted candy or choking hazards, by far the larger risks to children on Halloween are from injuries related to costumes and danger posed by motor vehicles .
In the ER, we tend to see a spike in visits during Halloween. Alcohol and drug use are often contributing factors, with falls, motor vehicle accidents, and altercations responsible for this increase.
In many respects, Halloween gives people license to step out of their everyday persona and experiment with playing a new role or being a different character. When combined with alcohol and drug use, the risk for bodily injury skyrockets.
- Place Reflective Tape On Your Child’s Costume. One of the best ways to reduce your child’s risk of being struck by a motor vehicle is by placing reflective tape on the front and back of their costume. This will significantly increase their visibility to motorists at nighttime. This is especially important if they are wearing a dark costume. It’s also important to be careful with costumes that have full face masks or eye patches. These can impede vision and lead to an increased risk for falls, head and neck injuries, lacerations, and extremity fractures.
- Make Sure Costumes Purchased Are Flame Retardant. Costumes with oversized sleeves and pants pose a risk for catching fire if lit jack-o-lanterns are sitting on porches or walkways when trick or treaters are approaching or leaving homes.
- Decorative Contact Lenses Should Only Be Obtained By Prescription From an Ophthalmologist or A Licensed Optometrist. These lenses are properly fitted and sterile and are not fraught with an increased risk of eye infections and potential for visual compromise. Decorative or colored contact lenses purchased from a toy or novelty shop are not only illegal, but are poorly fitted and run a high risk for persons developing keratitis, corneal ulcers and potential visual loss.
- Don’t Carve A Pumpkin If You Are Drinking Alcohol. This is a sure-fire way to increase the risk of cutting your fingers or hands. Lacerations to fingers (index finger is the most common) are a common type of injury we typically see on Halloween. Consider using a magic marker instead of carving a pumpkin in order to reduce the risk of injury to your hands and fingers.
- Don’t Allow Your Children To Overindulge On Halloween. Ration candy so that they learn to enjoy it in moderation. Inspect the candy in their trick or treat bags to make sure it is safe and unadulterated.
Halloween is also a time of year that may not be easy for patients who are diabetic. I frequently take care of diabetic patients who arrive in the ER feeling dizzy due to overindulging in the contents of their children’s trick or treat bags. It’s important for them to avoid eating candy as this can lead to a spike in their blood sugar and risk for a complications related to their kidney and blood vessels, increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.
Tight fitting costumes can affect breathing and may also increase risk of overheating . Also, it’s a good idea to try on your costume before Halloween to make sure you feel comfortable wearing it.
I took care of a patient many years ago who arrived in a tight bear costume having difficulty breathing. The person had used Ecstasy (MDMA), was intoxicated, and had a core body temperature of 106 F. Due to a zipper malfunction with the costume, we had to cut the costume off in order to fully expose the patient and institute appropriate cooling measures. The good news is that the patient made an uneventful recovery, but their chances of re-using the costume were next to nil!
Hope you have a safe and Happy Halloween!
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