Ghosts, goblins and witches. Halloween is supposed to be scary for children--but it shouldn't be dangerous! Yet officials of the National Safe Kids Campaign note that the risk of pedestrian injury rises dramatically on Halloween with so many children out wandering through their neighborhoods.
They encourage parents to pay more attention to a child's safety while out canvassing for tricks or treats. Although many parents are extremely cautious about checking the candy their children receive, they may not perceive the risks from some of the other hazards on Halloween, says Heather Paul, executive director of the Safe Kids Campaign. That means making sure children follow safe pedestrian habits, stay away from flames and candles and have costumes that will not lead to injuries.
"Parents should consider the fact that cars and fire can be a serious risk for children. It's a scary night for monsters, but it shouldn't be a scary night for families," Paul said.
Here's a list of safety and nutrition tips for trick-or-treaters, compiled from information from the Safe Kids Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics:
* Instruct children to always stop and look both ways before crossing the street and to cross only at crosswalks and intersections. Never cross between parked cars.
* Whenever possible, have children trick-or-treat in groups. Children under age 12 should be accompanied by an adult.
* Remind children not to run while out trick-or-treating.
* Carry flashlights and use reflective tape and stickers to make costumes visible to motorists. The best place for the tape is on the head or shoulders, which is roughly the driver's eye level. Tape on the shoes and legs may not be visible to drivers.
* Tell children to stay on the sidewalk and not cut across yards, where they might trip on ornaments or debris or run into wires, ropes or clotheslines.
* Avoid masks because they can impede a child's vision. But if the child must have a mask, cut the eye holes large enough to provide full vision. When using paint or makeup, be sure to use nontoxic, hypoallergenic kits.
* Choose costumes that fit well. Avoid oversized shoes, high heels, long skirts or pants that children may trip on. Secure hats so they don't slip over children's eyes.
* Make sure all parts of the costume--including mask, beard and wig--are flame-resistant. Avoid costumes with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts, which could inadvertently come in contact with flames.
* Do the jack-o'-lantern carving for small children. Have the child draw the face with markers and then you can do the cutting. Children from age 5 to 10 can--with supervision--carve pumpkins using pumpkin cutters equipped with safety bars.
* If putting candles inside your jack-o'-lantern, use votive candles. Flashlights are a safer substitute.
* Lighted pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from children and curtains and other flammable items, and they should never be left unattended.
* Instruct your child not to eat any candy until you've checked it. Inspect it after you are home and have good light to go through the cache. Watch for signs of tampering, such as small pinholes and torn or loose wrappers.
* If your children are small, get rid of choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or toys.
CAPTION: Emily Massey, in 1998 photo at left, helps her sister Daisy with Halloween decorations. In top photo, Joshua Okeefe awakens after a 1997 costume race/walk. Above, a child picks his way through a field of pumpkins.