Beware these Halloween safety ghouls
NEW YORK — Halloween is usually full of fun and adventure — and candy — making it a favorite holiday for many.
Cloee Cooper, a research analyst in Boston, remembers it that way.
“You get to dress up as someone else, walk all over town, attend haunted house parties and celebrations at school,” she said.
But Cooper says that when she was growing up in Mount Shasta, California, her parents had a few rules: “Don’t go inside a person’s house unless you know them. Don’t take unwrapped candies, and I had to be back home by a certain time.”
Before you hit the sidewalks on Halloween, make sure that your family gets the most out of the day by playing it safe.
Face paint might seem simple enough, but the national Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released studies in 2009 and 2016 that found toxic chemicals in them.
“We found lead in nearly 20% of the Halloween face paints tested. Cadmium in nearly 30%,” said last year’s report, citing research on dozens of products. “Lead is strongly associated with learning disabilities and developmental problems. Cadmium is linked to breast, kidney, lung and prostate cancer.”
The coalition recommends picking costumes that do not require face paint.
Colored contact lenses are another Halloween staple, enhancing the scary look. Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, recommends buying only lenses that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and sold by an FDA-approved vendor.
“The legal and safe way to wear color lenses is to have a qualified eye care professional measure the dimensions of your eyes, try on the lenses and make sure it fits,” he said.
Many lenses sold online and in stores are not FDA-approved, he said. “Such lenses may be contaminated and can cause terrible infection.”
Colored lenses should not be worn continuously, as they interfere with oxygen transmission to the cornea.
The wearer should know the rules for safe wear and care.
“If experiencing pain, poor vision or red eye, take the lenses out immediately and consult an ophthalmologist,” Steinemann said. “The colored lenses have to be disinfected every time it is worn, just like ordinary lenses.”
Maybe you’re considering a wide-eyed, doll-like look. But the FDA has not approved “anime or circle lenses” and warns against buying them.
And whether you’re buying your costumes or sewing them at home, the FDA recommends flame-retardant materials like polyester or nylon. Consider using flashlights or battery-powered tea lights in carved pumpkins instead of candles or other open flames, said Dr. Elaine B. Josephson, spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Eyes on the road
Pedestrian injuries to children are the most common injuries during Halloween, said Dr. Sarah Denny, a member of the American Association of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, children are up to four times as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 47 people in the US died between 6 p.m. October 31, 2016, and 5:59 a.m. the next day. Almost one-third of the Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared with 16% on an average day. And from 2012 to 2016, 22% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunken driver.
“My advice is to wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces or bracelets, stay on sidewalks, cross streets together using crosswalks and not cross between parked cars,” Denny said.
The CDC recommends fastening reflective tape to clothing and carrying a flashlight to help motorists spot trick-or-treaters on the road. The American College of Emergency Physicians cautions against ill-fitting clothes and masks that may obstruct vision.
Careful with the candy
Halloween is incomplete without candy. And with a lot of candy comes a lot of responsibility — toward teeth. Dr. Mary Hayes, spokeswoman for the American Dental Association and a pediatric dentist, said parents must emphasize to children that they should not end up with cavities and brush their teeth and floss twice a day. She hands out toothbrushes along with treats to encourage children to brush after eating candy.
“Chocolate is a better treat than sugar candies,” she added. “It has some oils which are detrimental to the growth of bacteria.”
That bag full of candy can be tempting, but eating too much at once could also make children sick. Mickey Silverstein, a public school teacher in Wilmette, Illinois, recalled one Halloween when her 6-year-old son, who’s now an adult, ate all his treats in one sitting.
“He threw up a mountain of chocolate,” she said. “That never happened again.”
“For the next day, specially in the pediatric population, there is a potential for candy-induced diarrhea from ingesting an unusually large amount of sorbitol-containing candy,” Dr. David Toro, an assistant clinical professor of clinical emergency medicine at Indiana University, wrote in an email.
Parents should prevent children from eating too much candy, he said. But if they develop diarrhea, he recommends drinking lots of fluids to stay hydrated, such as fruit juice or soup, but not sugary drinks, sports drinks or bottled juice.
If the diarrhea is severe, he advises visiting the emergency room.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to carefully inspect candy for signs of tampering and then allocate portions to be eaten in the weeks after Halloween.