Halloween is a scary day, but it shouldn’t be an unsafe day. Kids of all ages will be out celebrating the spooky holiday, partying and trick-or-treating. The B.C. Injury and Prevention Unit reports that 90 per cent of all injuries are preventable and predictable.
Each year, BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, and BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) attend to many injuries involving burns from fireworks, falls, choking and cuts from pumpkin-carving, cars and trick-or-treaters.
Here are some tips to stay safe this Halloween – at any age:
1. Stay safe on the road
According to Preventable, one person dies, 12 people are hospitalized and 57 children per week end up in a B.C. emergency room due to pedestrian-involved motor vehicle accidents.
During Halloween, increased pedestrian traffic means that everyone, including drivers, needs to be more aware on the road. Parents should talk to their children about road safety before heading out to trick-or-treat.
Preventable warns that overcast evenings, poor visibility and thousands of kids in every sort of outfit, including many dressed in black, creates a definite potential for injury.
Drivers need to watch for children running out in the road and be vigilant about driving safely. Pedestrians should make sure they are visible to traffic. They should wear bright clothes made of flame-resistant material with reflective tape. Children could carry light sticks or a flashlight. Everyone should use crosswalks and intersections and refrain from texting or listening to iPods while on the road.
Can you see clearly?
Trick-or-treaters should avoid alleys, wooded areas, vacant lots. Face painting is often a safer than a mask which tends to obscure vision.
"Go up one side of the street and down the other rather than crossing the street between houses," reads a public service press release.
2. Don’t take candy from strangers
This old adage doesn’t really apply on Halloween, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk. Wrapped candy should be inspected for tampering by an adult and "when in doubt, throw it out."
Young children should always go with a responsible adult from door-to-door on Halloween night. They should avoid houses that don’t have porch lights on.
Check your treats
Parents should check their children's treats before eating. Discard treats that aren’t in sealed packaging or that look suspicious.
Adult, who's pouring your drink?
For adults, Halloween parties usually mean there is drinking involved. Always be aware of who is pouring your drink and never leave it unattended. Make sure you and your friends are drinking responsibly and always plan ahead for safe transportation.
3. Fireworks safety
Thirty percent of injuries are caused by illegal or homemade fireworks, according to the press release. The Vancouver police are reminding people that fireworks are only allowed to be used on October 31. They may only be discharged on private property, you must have a permit to use them, be 19 years old or older and carry ID on you while in possession of them.
Fireworks should always be discharged responsibly in open areas. Children should never hold lit fireworks. "A sparkler can burn as hot as 700 degrees Celsius and will not go out even when doused in water," the press release states. To be on the safest side, plan family fun that doesn't include fireworks. Everyone should watch the video “Just a firework, two buddies and a bomb” available through the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund website.
4. Protect four-legged buddies
“While Halloween is fun for trick-or-treaters, it can be a scary and dangerous time for both pets and farm animals,” says Lorie Chortyk, spokesperson for the BC SPCA.
The most important Halloween safety tip for pets is to keep candy away from them. Chocolate and artificial sweeteners are particularly poisonous and ingesting candy wrappers or foil can cause intestinal blockages and vomiting.
Loud noises in the neighbourhood, constant door-knocking and fireworks outside may spook pets, causing them to dart into traffic or even jump through windows.
The BC SPCA is recommending that owners keep their pets inside during Halloween. If pets get anxious it’s best not to console them, which only validates their worries. Instead, talk to them in a cheery, upbeat voice to reassure them that everything is fine.
Even though dressing Buster up as a superhero is funny for you, putting costumes on pets can be dangerous for them. Costumes can inhibit your pet’s ability to communicate with other animals, making them a target for attack. Additionally, some costumes can be a choking hazard or limit movement.
5. Use common sense
Preventable has partnered with London Drugs to reduce Halloween-related accidents by spreading the message to "expect the unexpected." Store employees are wearing shirts that say “You’re Not Expecting To Seriously Injure Yourself Today” and stores across B.C. are selling reflective bags that say “You’re Not Expecting A Child To Run Into Traffic."
By using common sense, planning ahead and talking about preventing injuries with children, Preventable hopes that everyone can have a fun, faux scary Halloween, not a truly horrifying one.