Treat yourself and your kids to a safe Halloween this year.
The annual parade of Miss Piggys, Snoopys, ghosts and Darth Vaders happens this Saturday, and local and national officials have T some suggestions to keep your kids and their treats from harm.
Since the holiday falls on a weekend, parents and tricksters should be aware that there may be more drivers on the road who have celebrated a little too much at grown-up Halloween parties. So be especially careful about crossing streets and other thoroughfares.
And there's not a year that goes by without reports of ghoulish incidents such as razor blades planted in apples or safety pins in boxes of raisins.
That's why the National Safety Council urges parents to tell their children firmly that no treats may be eaten until children get home. That way parents can inspect the loot fully for any unwrapped candy or suspicious-looking fruit.
Some other pointers from the safety council:
Parents or older brothers or sisters should accompany trick-or-treaters on their rounds.
If you can, limit trick-or-treating to daylight hours. If your children must be out after dark, make sure they have a working flashlight and that their clothing is a light or fluorescent color than can be seen easily. Halloween costumes should be of a nonflammable or flame-retardant fabric and short enough that younger children won't be tripping over those spooky outfits.
Supply children with a strong bag that won't break or tear when it gets loaded with treats.
Fairfax County Police plan to be in evidence around most neighborhoods on Halloween, as do police in most other areas. Police encourage trick-or-treaters to limit their visits to neighbors they know.
"We also urge citizens to welcome treaters by putting on as many lights as possible in the front of their homes," says Debra Godwin, public information officer for the Fairfax County Police Dept.
She also cautions area residents about jack-o-lanterns with burning candles. "We recommend they use flashlights instead of a candle, or if they must use one, to keep it away from curtains and furniture and watch it carefully."
Although home-baked goodies sound like a nice idea, the National Safety Council encourages giving only pre-wrapped candies for safety reasons.
If you can't stand the idea of giving sugar-laden treats, dentists will salute you. Some suggestions for healthier goodies include wrapped granola bars, sugarless gum, nuts, popcorn, raisins or pretzels.
If you're really concerned, hand out toothbrushes. But if you do, don't leave your pumpkin outside -- you're sure to find it smashed the next morning.
Safety suggestions don't end with humans. The Northern Virginia Animal Shelter Information Network even has some tips on Halloween, which it says "can be a very scary experience for your pet." Network officials say normally friendly pets can be frightened by the confusion and costumes and may scratch or bite.
So, better lock Spot in the basement this Saturday.