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October 2, 2006

A University of Michigan Health Minute update on important health issues.

Itís scary, but is it safe? U-M expert offers tips for picking safe Halloween costumes

Kidsí costumes should be visible, well-ventilated, offer a full range of motion, and made of flame resistant/retardant materials

ANN ARBOR, MI – Whether your child wants to walk down the aisle as a beautiful bride, go on an adventure as Dora the Explorer, spin webs like Spiderman, or sail the high seas of the Caribbean like Captain Jack Sparrow, there’s one thing they all should have in common – a safe Halloween costume.


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While Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year for kids of all ages, it can also be one of the most dangerous, if the proper precautions are not taken, says Pamela Pucci, RN, a nurse educator in injury prevention and community outreach at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center.

“Between 4 and 10 p.m. on Halloween, there is a significant increase in falls, burn-related injuries, and pedestrian injuries,” says Pucci. “And one of the most startling statistics is that children are four and a half times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other night during the year.”

To help prevent some of these injuries, Pucci encourages parents to dress their children in Halloween costumes that are spooky, but safe before they go trick-or-treating.

She offers these tips for picking the safest costume for your little goblins, ghosts and ghouls.

Pucci’s five tips for Halloween costume safety:

  • Don’t’ vanish, be visible: Dress your child in bright-colored clothing that will be visible to motorists. For darker costumes, Pucci suggests adding reflective tape to the material. “This really helps drivers, so be sure to put the reflective tape not only on the front and back of the costume, but on the child’s shoes as well to increase their visibility,” says Pucci.

  • Breathe, see and hear all evil: Pucci recommends that parents avoid buying masks that are made of hard plastic, only have small openings for the eyes, nasal area and mouth, and cover the entire head, including the ears. “What parents can do to keep their child happy and safe is to provide a mask that has very high, wide openings and does not cover the nose or the ears,” says Pucci.

  • Keep ‘em moving: “One of the best ways to prevent falls or other accidents is to buy a costume that offers your child a wide range of motion,” says Pucci. Children should wear costumes that allow them to move freely and safely, and shoes that are flexible and sturdy for running around outdoors. Pucci recommends children wear their own tennis shoes – which parents can dress up for the occasion – instead of bulky, red clown shoes, or dress heals that often come with costumes.   
  • Read the label: The safest Halloween costumes are those made with flame resistant or flame retardant materials; a costume made of 100 percent polyester is the safest choice. “When a flame resistant costume come into contact with a small flame, it burns slowly, allowing parents time to get their child out of the costume,” says Pucci. “Costumes made of 100 percent cotton, however, catch on fire very quickly and can cause the greatest amount of injury to the child.”

  • Don’t over-accessorize: No Harry Potter costume is complete without glasses. But to keep your child safe, make sure all costume glasses are wore without the lenses to allow for optimal vision. Even Captain Jack Sparrow’s sword could be cause for concern. “Swords and other accessories carried by the child should be made of plastic and be extremely flexible, without any sharp edges. In the event the child falls, such an accessory would actually bend with the child and not cause injury,” says Pucci.

More tips to keep Halloween safe for kids and teens:

  • Make sure children age 12 and younger are accompanied by an adult.
  • For younger children, sew a label into their costume with their name, address and phone number, in case they become lost.
  • Have a designated route for trick-or-treating.
  • Walk on sidewalks. Don’t cut across lawns, run in between parked cars, or walk in the street.
  • Set a time for teens to return home.
  • Be on the look-out for homemade treats, fruit and cider. All homemade treats should be discarded, and fresh fruit should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected.

For more information, visit these Web sites:

UMHS press release: Candy’s not the only Halloween safety concern

UMHS press release: UMHS joins forces with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to study burns related to children’s clothing

UMHS Health Topics A-Z: Sugar and Sweets

KidsHealth: Playing it safe on Halloween

Consumer Product Safety Commission: Halloween Safety Alert

Written by Krista Hopson


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