Halloween safety tips from Northeast Contact

CONSUMER FORUM
By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted Oct. 30, 2011, at 7:24 p.m.

Happy Halloween! We would like to see all consumers of all ages have a safe observance of the day. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a few suggestions to help keep the annual night of ghosts and goblins happy and safe.

Prevent fires and burns. Use battery-powered lights and candles instead of open flame, and choose costumes and materials that are flame retardant.

See and be seen. Have trick-or-treaters carry flashlights or glow sticks after dusk. Trim their costumes with reflective tape.

Fit for safety. Make sure costumes fit well, so capes or skirts don’t drag on the ground and cause a fall. Hats, scarves and masks — if worn — should be secured so they don’t limit a child’s vision.

A nine-year study (1997-2006) found that Halloween was among the top three holidays related to trips by children to emergency rooms. The study found:

• Finger and hand injuries were most frequent (17.6% of ER visits).

• Of those injuries, about one-third were lacerations and about one-fifth were fractures.

• Children ages 10–14 suffered the largest proportion of injuries (30.3%).

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has its own list of safety tips, including the following:

• Never let children carve pumpkins. Adults should do the carving, using carving knives rather than kitchen knives, which are more apt to get stuck in a thick-skinned pumpkin.

• Carving knives should be kept in a clean, dry, well-lighted area (any moisture on the table, tools or hands can lead to slips that cause cuts).

• Use small, well-controlled strokes when cutting, always away from your body.

• When trick-or-treating, youngsters should wear comfortable, sturdy and slip-resistant shoes.

• Know where dogs are in your neighborhood; a dog may interpret an approach by a costumed child as a threat.

Kids In Danger is a nonprofit group based in Chicago that aims to keep young people safe. KID strongly recommends against costumes with loose or flowing parts which could catch fire. KID joins many safety experts who recommend no masks or loose, flowing parts; the group says many costume manufacturers ignore these recommendations.

Of course, there’s always a chance that something else has made its way into the treat bag. Parents should check the goodies carefully before allowing young ones to eat anything they have collected.

Finally, we’re relieved to note that Daylight Saving Time continues until Sunday. Still, much trick-or-treating will go on after dark. Blogger William Grewe has a suggestion for drivers hurrying home from work, calling on their cellphones to make plans: turn the phone off and imagine that during your drive your child will cross your path. If other teens offer your teenager a ride, think about asking them to minimize their driving. Driving on Halloween is challenging enough; risks increase dramatically for a young, inexperienced driver.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, go to http://necontact.wordpress.com, or e-mail contacexdir@live.com.

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