Letting those grisly little goblins out on Halloween can be heart-wrenching for parents. Their worst nightmare is often tainted candy, but statistics show motor vehicle accidents and falls lead the injury list during this celebration.
An average of four children are struck and killed every Halloween, four times the fatality rate reported on any other night of the year in the United States, according to a study by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To minimize the hazards, it is best to choose brightly colored costumes or attach reflective tape. Costumes and accessories should be made of flame-retardant material and masks should not obstruct the child's field of vision. Make-up is preferable to a mask and children should never be sent out in adult or high-heel shoes, the centers study said.
Haunting the neighborhoods in costumes that are bulky or oversized can be cumbersome and at the hospital, X-rays of broken bones from falls are far more common than needles in candy.
Cords or fabric that can choke should be eliminated and sharp objects avoided, the study said.
Despite parents' fears, there hasn't been a documented case of a child being poisoned by Halloween treats for 10 years, according to the National Confectioners' Association.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration operates a hot line, (301) 443-1240, which allows anyone, including police, to report incidents of tainted candy. Nevertheless, parents need to be vigilant.
Food and Drug Administration officials recommend children eat only commercially wrapped candy. Children shouldn't snack on their treats before parents have a chance to inspect the goodies. Parents should inspect wrapped treats for signs of tampering.
Fresh fruit should be inspected for holes and small punctures and should be cut open. It is also important to watch out for any foods causing allergic reactions.
In today's national climate, Halloween may be a scary time for parents, but pediatric experts say preserving the fun and normalcy of Halloween is important.
Taking children to a Halloween party is a great way to avoid both traffic and "stranger-danger" issues, but if youngsters are making their neighborhood rounds, it's best to send an adult with them.