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October 30, 2006

State public health director offers safety tips for parents and kids this Halloween

SPRINGFIELD - Halloween is one of the most exciting nights of the year for children, but it also can be one of the most dangerous.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four times as many children age 5 to 14 years of age are killed on Halloween evening compared to any other night of the year because of falls, being hit by a vehicle or other accidents.

“Parents and trick-or-treaters need to follow some simple, common sense safety tips to ensure this is a fun and safe holiday,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.  “Kids are excited and may forget to be careful so parents should be there to supervise young children and remind them of safety lessons such as looking both ways before crossing the street.”

Parents should also make sure their child’s costume is safe.  Children should be able to walk, see and be seen in their costumes.  The costume should be short enough to prevent tripping and falling and be made of light-colored material and include reflective tape.

To ensure a safe Halloween, Dr. Whitaker suggests the following tips for parents, children, motorists and homeowners:

• Parents should inspect all treats and throw away any unwrapped or loosely wrapped items.
• Homemade items or baked goods should be discarded unless you personally know who gave them.
• Parents of young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies and small toys.
• Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes or tears in wrappers.  Dispose of anything that looks suspicious.

• Should be bright, reflective and flame retardant.
• Use face paint instead of masks, which can interfere with a child’s vision, or wear masks that are well-fitting with eye- and ear-holes that do not obscure sight or hearing.
• To reduce the likelihood of tripping, children should not wear long, baggy or loose costumes or oversized shoes.
• The child’s name, address and telephone number should be attached to their clothing.
• Accessories should be flexible and made of soft material, not sharp or pointed.

• Supervise children younger than 12 years of age.
• Not send children out on an empty stomach.  You don’t want kids munching on treats before there is a chance to inspect them.
• Plan a trick-or-treating route in a known neighborhood and set a return time.
• Make sure children know their phone number.
• Establish a curfew for older youth.

• Bring treats home before eating them so parents can inspect them.
• Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
• Walk, do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
• Not ride bicycles, which could catch costumes in the chains and spokes.
• Travel in groups when adult supervision is not provided.
• Use flashlights and look both ways before crossing the street.
• Stay on sidewalks, not in the street.  If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
• Not cross the street between parked cars.
• Go to familiar neighborhoods.  Only go to well-lit houses and remain outside while waiting for treats.
• Not accept rides from strangers.

• Slow down, especially in residential areas.
• Enter and exit driveways and alleyways slowly and carefully.
• Obey all traffic signs and signals.
• Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
• Use child safety seat or seatbelts when driving children around.  Have children get out of cars on the curbside.

• Turn on an outside light if welcoming trick-or-treaters.
• Clear walkways and yards.
• Keep dogs and other animals inside and away from the door.


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