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Have a safer Halloween

Halloween is a time for fun and scary pranks. Unfortunately, all of the fun and festivities significantly increase the risk of injury to children. Falls are the leading cause of injury on Halloween, and many others are hurt in Halloween-related traffic crashes.

Most Halloween injuries involve environmental hazards such as steps, uneven pavement and other obstacles that may cause falls in the dark. Flammable and cumbersome costumes, wigs, and masks also are dangerous.

Many safety experts suggest a home Halloween party or a neighborhood event as opposed to outdoor trick-or-treating.

The Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS Coalition, sponsored by All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, offers these tips to help make your children and your Halloween injury-free while trick-or-treating:

Always accompany your young children on their trick-or-treat rounds.

Travel only in familiar areas and along an established, well-lighted route.

Restrict trick-or-treat visits to homes with porch or outside lights on.

Remove breakable items or obstacles such as tools, ladders and children's toys from your steps, lawn and porch.

Bring treats home before eating them. Parents should check treats to ensure that items have not been tampered with and are safely sealed. Be careful with fruit _ cut it open before allowing a child to eat it.

Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury on Halloween. The fact that children wear costumes and walk in the dark in unfamiliar neighborhoods increases the risk of a fall. There are a few precautions you can take to reduce that risk.

Apply face paint or cosmetics directly to the face _ it is safer than loose-fitting masks that can obstruct a child's vision. If a mask is worn, be certain that the mask fits securely. Make the eye holes large enough to allow full vision.

Use flashlights while trick-or-treating.

Shorten costumes to reduce the risk of tripping.

Secure hats so they will not slip over children's eyes.

Dress children in shoes that fit. Mom's heels or Dad's work boots are not safe for trick-or-treaters.

Allow children to carry only flexible soft props, not swords or other devices that could cause eye or other injuries. Anything they carry could hurt them if they fall.

Do not cut across yards. Lawn ornaments and clotheslines are invisible in the dark. Tell your children to stay on the sidewalks.

Traffic injuries

Costumed kids walking through dimly lit streets are difficult for drivers to see. You can help make your kids more visible:

Decorate costumes with reflective tape.

Decorate bags and sacks with reflective tape.

Use Halloween costumes that are light or bright enough to make them more visible at dusk.

It is especially important to remind children to practice traffic safety:

Stop at all corners.

Look left _ right _ left before crossing.

Never dart out from between parked cars.

Motorists driving on Halloween, including parents and babysitters who are chauffeuring kids around the neighborhood, need to take precautions:

Slow down in residential neighborhoods.

Obey all traffic signs and signals.

Watch for children walking in the street or on medians and curbs.

Enter and exit driveways and alleyways carefully.

Clean your headlights and make sure they work.

Teach children to exit and enter the car on the curb side, away from traffic.

Burns

Burns and fires are the second-leading cause of preventable injury to children:

Look for "flame-resistant" labels on costumes, masks, beards and wigs.

Use fire-resistant material for all homemade costumes.

Avoid costumes made out of flimsy material and outfits with big baggy sleeves or billowing skirts. These are more likely than tighter fitting costumes to come in contact with an exposed flame such as a candle.

For more information, contact the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS Coalition at (813) 898-SAFE.

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