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VCH expert debunks Halloween myths: Costumes pose more danger than candy tampering

Oct. 17, 2005, 11:28 AM

In his 22 years working as a Pediatric Emergency Physician, Tom Abramo, M.D., the new Director of Emergency Medicine for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, has seen lots of bags of X-rayed Halloween candy, and he has seen where the danger of Halloween lies: not in the candy.

“I have never seen a child injured from candy that’s been tampered with and I have never seen a bag of candy X-rayed that turned up with something dangerous in it,” Abramo said. Like clockwork, in the day or two leading up to and through Halloween, he sees children who are injured in accidents involving costumes or trick or treating.

“Children between the ages of 5 and 13 are at greatest risk,” Abramo said. “The worst is when they are hit by cars while stepping between cars onto roadways, or not crossing at the crosswalks. Parents need to use careful judgment to keep kids safe when they take them trick or treating, and especially careful judgment to determine whether a child is ready to trick or treat alone.”

Abramo said restrictive costumes are to blame for minor, but alarming injuries. Masks that are too tight and cannot easily be removed, or that obscure vision, can lead to falls or entrapment injuries. Costumes with sharp or pointed objects can cause injury if a child falls. Robes or draping costumes can tangle a child’s legs and lead to falls.

“Parents can get aggressive with costume design,” Abramo said. “But all you have to do is look at the costume and think ‘if I were wearing that costume and dashing out to trick or treat, would I get into trouble?’ If so, your child is at risk.”

Tips for safe costumes:

For purchased costumes, look for “flame retardant or resistant.”

Buy reflective tape or material for your child’s costume– and you.

Choose makeup over masks, or masks that are easily removed between houses.

Make sure children can walk up and down stairs easily in the costume.

Carry a flashlight.

Stick to well lit areas.

Observe the set times for trick or treating.

Go with a child unless you are certain they are responsible enough to go with friends, especially at exciting times, like trick or treating.

Make sure an older, more responsible child stays with friends while trick or treating.

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