MARTIN – With the costumes, pumpkin carving and sweet treats of Halloween around the corner, Saint Joseph Martin, part of KentuckyOne Health, is encouraging families to practice safety first during the holiday. Out of eight major holidays in the United States, Halloween had the fifth highest number of ER visits involving children ages 18 and younger, according to 2007-2013 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
“Unfortunately, fall festivities can lead to accidents, and we may see parents and kids in the ER after a kitchen knife slipped while carving a pumpkin,” said Angela O’Quinn, DO, of KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates, a service of Saint Joseph Martin. “Burns from costumes that were too long and dragged into an open flame from a jack-o-lantern can also be a concern. We want families to be able to enjoy the holiday safely and the best way to do that is to take some simple precautions first.”
Pumpkin Carving Safety – Hand injuries can occur when children and adults use kitchen knives that aren’t sharp enough to carve the tough outer skin of pumpkins. Most kitchen knives lack a safety guard to protect the hand from slipping down the blade, which increases the risk of serious injury.
Hand injuries from pumpkin carving can be so severe that nerve or tendon damage may occur and hand function is affected. Parents can prevent hand injuries by providing kid-friendly alternative decorating activities – whether that’s decorating the pumpkin with paints, stickers, and markers, or even dressing the pumpkin in a costume.
For older children and adults set on carving a jack-o-lantern, purchase a pumpkin carving knife made specifically for the task. When carving, always cut away from your body in small, controlled strokes. If younger children want to be involved, offer them the task of removing the pulp with their hands, rather than cutting. Once the jack-o-lantern is finished, consider using a flameless candle inside of it to avoid burns or fires. If a candle must be used, votive candles are safest.
Costume Safety – Along with being careful with pumpkin carving, parents should also use caution with their children’s costumes. Parents should ensure that the costume fits properly. That way, it won’t drag, causing the child to trip, or brush into a lit jack-o-lantern candle or luminary. Shoes should always fit properly and have a good grip. When purchasing a costume, always check the tag to ensure the costume is made using flame retardant material. Any costume props, such as a sword, should be short and flexible so that a child doesn’t trip on them, or fall on the prop and injure themselves. Trick-or-treaters’ vision should be clear, and not obstructed by a hat, mask or hood.
Pedestrian Safety – On Halloween night, pedestrian safety is also critical. Overall, Halloween ranks as the third deadliest day overall for pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To help ensure visibility to drivers, place reflective tape on your child’s costume. Kids also may enjoy holding flashlights or wearing glow sticks, which serves a dual purpose in making them more visible. Children 12 and under should always be accompanied by an adult. Pedestrians should never cut across yards or alleys, but should cross at crosswalks or areas where they are visible, and walk on sidewalks when possible.
Candy Safety – As children fill up their pillowcases and plastic pumpkins with goodies while trick-or-treating, there are also precautions to take. Before candy is eaten, examine each piece to ensure it’s wrapped and sealed and doesn’t appear to be tampered with.
For those with food allergies, Halloween can be a frustrating time. In the United States, 1 in 13 children has a food allergy, and many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are some of the most common allergens and can cause scary allergic reactions. However, a growing number of people are starting to take part in The Teal Pumpkin Project, in which families place teal pumpkins on their doorstep to signify that they are also offering non-food treats for kids with food allergies, such as glow bracelets, pencils and stickers.
“Fall is such a fun time of year for many families, and with just a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of vigilance, it can continue to be that way,” said Dr. O’Quinn. “Preventative measures are the key in ensuring you’re having fun making memories, and not in a panic at the emergency room.”