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Don't Be Haunted By Safety Slips

Some of the things that are most fun about Halloween may also be the most troublesome.

As a mother of three, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay knows all too well what can happen when mischief turns to madness, and she shares the following tips to keep a fun night from turning into a frightful evening.

  • Buy Flame-Resistant Costumes: Senay says to first look for flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester, or look for the label "flame-resistant" when purchasing costumes, masks, beards and wigs. Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. Avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts to minimize the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources.
  • Be Visible: For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle and sporting goods stores.
  • Carry Flashlight: Senay instructs parents to give children flashlights to see and be seen.
  • Wear Well Fitted Clothes: Costumes should fit well and not drag on the ground to guard against trips and falls. Senay says children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Oversized high heels are not a good idea.
  • Maintain Vision: If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has eye-holes large enough to allow full vision.
  • Have Safe Props: Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible materials.
  • Avoid Wearing Decorative Contact Lenses: Colored and decorative contacts are becoming popular, especially on Halloween when people try anything to get that "scary look." Senay says the lenses are primarily medical devices that many people mistakenly think are similar to sunglasses. This is a dangerous misconception, Senay warns. People who wear lenses purchased from unlicensed vendors have been given no instructions and often practice risky behavior. They don't clean or disinfect the lenses. They sleep in them. They even swap them with their friends.

    Sharing contact lenses can cause problems included bacterial infections, corneal abrasions and allergic reactions. Another risk is the lens not fitting the cornea properly.

    Concerns about decorative contact lenses prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning earlier this month that the lenses can cause permanent eye injuries and may potentially lead to blindness.

    Unlike contact lenses worn to correct refractive errors, the FDA does not review costume contact lenses for safety or effectiveness before they are sold to the public.

  • Be Aware Of Food Allergies: Senay says when reading labels, it's important to realize that many foods to which your child may be allergic to go by a variety of names in lists of ingredients. Two of the most important allergens are milk and peanut products.

    Senay suggests reading all labels before consuming any treats. She says do not allow your child to eat any candy that is unwrapped or does not have an ingredients label. If a treat is homemade, Senay instructs to politely ask the giver whether it might contain any of the foods to which your child is allergic. Do not allow your child to eat any of the treats until you get home and can study each label carefully.

  • Provide Safe Treats: It is likely that many or most of the treats your child receives may be questionable or suspect. You may wish to plan on having a safe Halloween party of your own as an alternative to trick-or-treating. You could also plan on having a store of safe treats when you get home from trick-or-treating so that your food allergic child won't feel left out of the fun.

    Also, Senay says to consider having non-food treats, such as stickers or coins.

  • Keep Kids Safe Around Decorations: Keep candles and Jack O' Lanterns away from landings doorsteps, decorations and other combustibles where costumes could brush against the flame. Also, remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick or treaters.
  • Use Safe Lights: Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets. And don't overload extension cords.
  • Be Careful of Dry Ice/Chemicals: The poison control center says it receives calls every year about dry ice and glow-in-the-dark materials. Experts say it's safe to drink a punch chilled with dry ice, but touching it can cause burns. They also warn against putting dry ice in the mouth or touching it with bare hands. Items like jewelry, glow sticks and other items containing glow-in-the-dark chemicals can be irritating, especially if a youngster gets them in his or her eyes.
  • Remind Children About Pedestrian Rules: According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, darting out into the street is one of the most common causes of pedestrian-related deaths among children, as children scurry from house to house. Senay says it is important for parents to remind children about pedestrian rules such as walking, not running, while trick-or-treating; stopping at all street corners before crossing; look left, right and left again before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as they cross; and teach them never to dart out into a street or cross between parked cars.
  • Drive Carefully: For motorists, Senay says to be mindful of trick-or-treaters. That means the following:
    • Slow down in residential neighborhoods.
    • Obey all traffic signs and signals.
    • Watch for children walking in the street or on medians and curbs.
    • Enter and exit driveways and alleyways slowly and carefully.

    Senay says if a child is under 12 years old, an adult should accompany them. She also suggests attaching the name, address and phone number (including area code) of children under age 12 to their clothes, in case they get separated from adults. And take a cell phone in case there is a need to make a call.

    Senay gives the following advice for older kids:

    • Teach your child his or her phone number; make sure your children have change for a phone call in case they have a problem away from home; provide cell phone;
    • Instruct children to travel only in familiar areas and along a pre-established route
    • Instruct children never to enter a home or an apartment building unless accompanied by an adult.
    • Set a time for children to return home.