Saturday, October 28, 2006


Keep children safe on streets

It's Halloween. "It is finally here," said my 7-year-old daughter, who has been waiting for this moment since the beginning of summer. She kept a calendar, counting down the days until trick-or-treating time.

Halloween can be a fun time for all. Parties galore, costumes and the treats -- what is there not to be excited about? It is one last dose of excitement before the gloomy winter months.

Amid the Halloween hoopla, people need to remember to exercise safety precautions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released the following series of safety tips:

All dressed up

Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.

Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives.
Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.

When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.

Pay attention to weather forecast.

Perhaps having an overcoat may be useful for a cold night.

If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.

Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.

Teach children how to call 911 if they have an emergency or become lost.

Home, safe home

To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.

Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.

Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
Carving a niche

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.

Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.

Lighted pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.
On the trail

A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds. Choose neighborhoods you are familiar with.

If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.

Remind trick-or-treaters:

Healthy Halloween

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

Wait until children are home to sort and check treats.

Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Many of these tips are general knowledge. But some might be overlooked in our busy lifestyles.

Paying attention might help someone and keep the fun alive. Have a happy Halloween.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at The William W. Backus Hospital with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Prakash and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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