October 28, 2010

Halloween Calls for Extra Care to Keep Children Safe

As children prepare for October’s fun-filled night of trick-or-treating, a few preventive measures could save a trip to the emergency room.

Falls are the primary cause of most of the Halloween-related injuries that doctors and nurses see each year in the emergency room at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, says Thomas Abramo, M.D., director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Many children show up to be treated for lacerations, abrasions and broken bones.

"The types of injuries we tend to see are related to costumes that are not age appropriate," said Abramo, who estimates that the number of patient visits to the emergency room on Halloween rises about 5 percent over average days.

Children should wear well-fitted costumes and shoes that are easy to walk in. "Parents should anticipate tripping if the child has a costume with a lot of appendages,” he said.

Masks can prevent children from seeing where they are going, especially younger children who do not have fully developed depth perception. Face paints and cosmetics are recommended as a safe alternative.

But Halloween can also cause injuries of a more serious nature. Children who don't look crossing the street or aren't visible to drivers could get struck by a car. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study that pedestrian deaths increased fourfold on Halloween night.

Children should always walk, never run, and stick to the sidewalks. Parents should teach children to look both ways before crossing the street, use crosswalks and travel in well-lit areas.

Abramo offered other tips parents can use to keep their children safe and injury-free:

• Put reflective tape on costumes and bags to make them visible to drivers.
• Make sure candy is age appropriate to avoid choking hazards.
• Never let children younger than 10 trick-or-treat alone. Older children should travel in groups.

Homeowners can also help make Halloween safe:

• Replace burned-out bulbs and turn on as many lights as possible to illuminate the yard and sidewalk.
• Clear the yard and sidewalk of anything children could trip over, like garden tools or fallen tree limbs.
• Secure pets.
• Give children a clear path to the door, free from pumpkins or other decorations they could trip over.