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Halloween Safety Tips

Treat your little ones to a safe and sound Halloween this year.

WebMD Feature

Halloween originated from several customs, the earliest of which dates back to Ireland in the fifth century B.C. As we know it today, the Oct. 31 celebration is a fun way to dress up in sometimes scary costumes. But experts warn that precautions are needed to ensure that disguises are the only frightening things on All Hallows' Eve.

The No. 1 cause of injuries on Halloween night is accidental falls from tripping over hems of costumes, steps, curbs, or unseen objects, according to that National Safety Council. But even more startling is that four times more children are killed annually in pedestrian/automobile accidents on that holiday night than on any other night of the year, reports the CDC.

"The most important thing on Halloween is that children are escorted and watched. They have a great potential of running from in front of or behind a car," says Richard Douglas, a Lewisville, Texas Police Department community relations officer. "We prefer that the young ones are in from trick or treating before dark."

Indeed, the CDC reminds parents that the return from daylight-saving to standard time lengthens the period of darkness and that a number of other factors could put children in the path of a car. These include their short stature, inability to react quickly enough to avoid a car or evaluate a potential traffic threat, lack of impulse control, and distractions because of shouts from other children, eye-catching costumes, and urges to acquire the best candy.

"Children are so excited on that night that they aren't using their normal safety sense," says Kerri Totty, a certified hand therapist at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital.

Totty deals with some of the injuries that children and their parents may receive during the days leading up to Halloween as well as on the holiday itself, such as cuts and burns related to turning a pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern.

"We see a lot of kitchen knife injuries. These can be devastating because of the structures in the hand," Totty tells WebMD. These include tendons, nerves, and arteries. She says that major therapy is required when the tendons and nerves are severed when a child or adult uses an inappropriate knife or uses one incorrectly. Physical therapy to prevent scarring from permanently disabling a hand can last for eight to 12 weeks.

"Usually these injuries happen because [people are] not paying attention to what they're doing or they're cutting toward themselves, or using the knife like an ice pick," Totty says, adding that knives should be clean because the bacteria on it can cause a major infection in any cut.

For adults, the medical experts advise using sharp knives; small children should just draw the jack-o'-lantern design on the outside of the pumpkin with a marker and let someone older do the cutting. Youngsters who are old enough could use knives intended for carving pumpkins.

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