Welcome to Kids Stuff. For many young children, when they notice the leaves are turning pretty fall colors and the days are becoming shorter, and they feel these brisker mornings, they know autumn has arrived, and that means Halloween fun events are not too far behind. However, with all fun festivities, one must always remember the phrase safety first.
When organizing this column, I came across safety tip suggestions from the following: American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/octhalloween.cfm); the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/hallow.html); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween); and the National Fire Protection Association (http://www.nfpa.org/newsReleaseDetails.asp? categoryid=488&itemId=53669)
DON’T GO IT ALONE
• First and foremost, never allow children to trick-or-treat alone. They should always be in view of a trusted adult. However, if your older teenager decides he/she is going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you, the adult. Agree on a specific time when he/she should return home.
• Plan your costume with safety in mind. Make sure they are bright and reflective so drivers see you easily. Maybe go the extra mile and buy additional reflective tape for your costume and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility. All costumes should be made from fire-retardant materials.
• If you’re wearing a mask in lieu of a non-toxic face paint, make sure it fits well, so your vision is not obstructed and your airway is not restricted.
• Make sure shoes fit well; otherwise, your foot can fall out of the shoe and you could suffer an injury.
• Hold a flashlight or a large, thick glow stick while trick-or-treating to help you see, and to help others see you.
• Remain on well-lighted streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
• Only cross at corners. Use established crosswalks wherever possible. Never cross between parked cars. Look both ways before crossing the street. Look left, right and left again to be sure no cars are approaching before you start crossing the street. Don’t assume the motorists will stop at the crosswalk just because you have the right of way. Also, just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
• Never cut across yards or use alleys.
• Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
• WALK, don’t run, from house to house.
• If you and your child carry a cell phone for quick communication and safety, keep it for emergencies only, because you do not want to become so involved with a call or text that you are not paying attention to lights, signs, drivers or your surroundings. Parents, if you get separated from your kids, do they know their home phone number or your cell number? Do they know how to dial 911?
• Parents, grandparents and guardians should examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before you or your youngsters consume them. Choking hazards can include gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys as treats. In the past, some facilities provided free X-rays of candy bags.
• Never allow children to cut a pumpkin, because serious injuries can occur. Instead allow them to draw a face on the outside of the pumpkin, then parents should do the cutting.
• Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating or on doorsteps, walkways, landings and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters, whose costumes may brush against the lighting. If you decide to use lighted pumpkins, keep them away from curtains and other flammable objects, place them on a sturdy object, and do not leave lighted pumpkins unattended. In addition, dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/halloween-safety-tips.aspx) provides wonderful information on how to take loving care of your pets. Here are some Halloween safety tips they suggested:
• No tricks, no treats for dogs or cats. Chocolate in all forms — especially dark or baking chocolate — can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
• Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively non-toxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
• Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If they are chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
• A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lighted pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.
• Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it, because wearing a costume may cause undue stress.
• If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go without a costume.
• Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
• All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.
• When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.
• IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification.
Columnist William Feldman can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org