October 28, 2005

Halloween myths miss mark

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graphic by Dominic Doyle, Medical Art Group

Halloween myths miss mark

Tom Abramo, M.D.

Tom Abramo, M.D.

In his 22 years working as a Pediatric emergency physician, Tom Abramo, M.D., director of Emergency Medicine at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, has seen where the danger of Halloween lies, and it's not in the bag.

“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,” Abramo said.

Like clockwork, Abramo sees children injured every Halloween season, but it's from accidents involving costumes or cars, not candy

“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 your answer would be yes, your child is at risk.”

Common sense and otherwise, here are some tips for a safer Halloween:

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

• Buy reflective tape or material for costumes.

• 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.