As millions of children throughout the U.S. prepare to head out tonight for Halloween trick-or-treating, federal safety officials are encouraging parents and caregivers to take precautionary safety measures to avoid common Halloween injuries and emergency room visits that occur each year.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) officials released a series of Halloween Safety Tips this month, as part of an annual effort to help children have a fun holiday night of trick-or-treating, without becoming one of the thousands of Halloween related injury victims recorded annually.
CPSC officials report that there were an estimated 4,500 parents, caregivers and children are injured last year between October and November, due to a Halloween injury, most of which were preventable if the proper safety precautions had been taken.
Of those injured during the Halloween holiday, 41 percent of injuries are related to pumpkin carving activities. These injuries are most common when children handle sharp utensils to carve pumpkins that the CPSC recommends be left to the adults. Related injuries also included burns from using flamed candles to put inside of the carved out pumpkins. Safety experts recommend that parents and caregivers used battery powered lights in pumpkins rather than flame lit candles.
Approximately 32 percent of injuries were related to falls that occurred while putting up or taking down Halloween decorations, tripping on costumes, or while walking during trick-or-treating. Twenty two percent of injuries were the result of other lacerations, ingestions and costume, pumpkin or decoration related incidents, while the remaining five percent of injuries were related to allergic reactions.
Since the most popular time for trick-or-treating for children is between the hours of 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. Children believed to be mature enough without supervision should be instructed to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and to trick-or-treat in groups.
Behaviors such as running across streets to different neighboring houses can be extremely dangerous and children should always be accompanied by an adult across a crosswalk when available. Officials recommend parents also take street-crossing safety into consideration when purchasing or creating their child’s costume. Experts recommend avoiding baggy or oversized costumes that could result in fall hazards, always have proper fitting masks with eye and nose holes to allow full visibility and adequate breathing, and to always use reflective tape as a trim for costumes and outerwear to help children be visible at night time.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released their own Halloween warning about the potential fire risks associated with Halloween traditions. From 2009 to 2013 an estimated 860 home structure fires were reported causing an average of one death, 41 civilian injuries and $13 million in property damage annually.
NFPA officials say the most likely fire causing scenarios are candles left unattended or lit to close to curtains in the living rooms or family rooms. The association supports the CPSC recommendation that battery operated candles are much safer than flame lit candles for interior and exterior use.