Next week, all the neighborhood kids will be out in force, dressed as astronauts, firefighters, and kids’ favorite cartoon characters. This weekend, there will be costume parties, family gatherings, and pumpkin carving. For kids and those of us adults who love Halloween, it’s one of the best times of the year. There are, however, real dangers associated with Halloween, and they have nothing to do with ghosts.
Poison Control Centers Are Busy on Halloween
Many kids have heard the story about razor blades being placed in candy, but that story is largely a myth. Still, there are multiple reasons why Halloween night is one of the busiest of the year for poison control centers. Candy is most often a problem when a child with an allergy accidentally ingests or comes into contact with an allergen, often peanuts or peanut dust, and experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. This can result in death or brain damage from a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Another increasing concern, particularly in states where marijuana is legal, is kids getting their hands on candy or food items made with cannabis. With children, these products, like gummy bears or brownies, can quickly result in an overdose, poisoning little bodies and requiring hospitalization. Children and parents alike may have difficulty differentiating between regular and marijuana-containing products or they may drastically underestimate the concentration of cannabis in candies.
Another common and potentially dangerous source of poisoning is glow sticks. The use of these temporary light-up sticks, necklaces, or other glow-in-the-dark items is often encouraged during Halloween. They make children easier to see in the dark, for both parents and drivers on the roads. The liquid inside these items can be accidentally ingested, spilled onto skin, or released into a child’s eyes. Though not likely to be lethal, these can cause serious skin reactions, poisoning, and blindness.
Flat, button batteries continue to pose a lethal risk to children. The risk is higher at Halloween because of the many flashlights and other popular Halloween products with flat, button batteries in them. If a flashlight isn’t properly closed or if children somehow knock the battery out while playing, they can easily pick the battery up alongside other candy and swallow it. These lithium batteries then can burn through a child’s esophagus, stomach, and blood vessels, causing life-changing injuries to the esophageal tract or severe blood loss leading to death. Always keep lithium button batteries out of the reach of children, and monitor young children closely when they are operating a flashlight or other item with a lithium battery inside.
Trip and Fall Dangers Abound
Children can also seriously injure themselves due to poorly designed costumes or dangerously displayed Halloween decorations. If your child’s costume is too long or fits in a way that creates a trip hazard, it is important to make alterations or find another costume. Sure, kids trip and fall all the time, but few parents think about the most serious consequences of such an event. A child who trips and falls may only scrape a knee, but what if the child hits his or her head? Blunt-force trauma can leave a child permanently disabled by a traumatic brain injury. It can even result in death. Costumes can make it difficult for children to see an obstacle toward which they are falling and prevent them from taking any steps toward protecting themselves in a fall.
Another trip and fall hazard is Halloween decorations. As children go door-to-door, they are often fascinated by the haunted heads and springing spiders in neighbors’ lawns. As Halloween décor has gotten more sophisticated, the use of multiple extension cords and other trip-worthy decorations has raised the dangers for children who are trick-or-treating. Again, this risk is enhanced by too-long or poorly-fitting costumes and masks that create visibility problems.
Risk of Pedestrian Accidents Highest for Kids on Halloween
Halloween is the single most dangerous night of the year for pedestrian accidents involving kids. The holiday creates a perfect but tragic storm of circumstances that pose a deadly danger to children.
Costumes We’ve already mentioned poorly-fitting or badly-designed costumes, as well as masks that make it hard for kids to see. These don’t just create trip and fall risks, but they increase the odds a child will not see a vehicle approaching and walk into the street. Parents should also consider visibility when a child selects his or her costume. If your child’s costume is a dark color and may be hard to see, it’s critical to add reflective tape, flashlights, or glow-in-the-dark items to increase the likelihood drivers will be able to see him or her.
Unexpected Crossings On Halloween night, particularly during trick-or-treat hours, children often forget about crossing only at crosswalks. Particularly in popular neighborhoods for trick-or-treating, kids and adults alike are crossing the street in every random place imaginable. This creates a serious safety hazard. It’s even more dangerous if a trick-or-treater steps out to cross from between two parked cars because, again, a driver in a motor vehicle may hit the child before they see them.
Drunk Drivers Adding significantly to Halloween risks are the number of adult parties going on at the same time. Unfortunately, some of those party-goers choose to get into their cars and drive after drinking. October 31 and the nearest weekend to it have higher-than-average numbers of drunk driving accidents. In fact, less than a third of traffic fatalities each year are attributed to alcohol-related accidents. Last Halloween, over half of all motor vehicle deaths were involved one or more drunk drivers.
Though the above account for many of the serious injuries that occur on Halloween and during the days before and after, there are other dangers. Each year, emergency rooms see many visits from people who cut themselves badly while carving pumpkins. These injuries can be minor, but they also include loss of a finger, injury to major blood vessels, and severe puncture wounds.
No jack-o-lantern is complete without a light inside, but candles are not really your best choice anymore. In fact, they can lead to 3rd degree burns or extensive fire damage to property. Certainly, the small LED lights sold for this purpose are much safer. If you must use a candle, keep your pumpkin a safe distance from nearby structures, and pay close attention to the flame.
We at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg wish you and your family a happy and safe Halloween. This holiday weekend and Monday night will no doubt present you with many opportunities to have fun with family and friends and to remember the small joys of childhood. If something goes wrong and an accident occurs, know that our experienced personal injury attorneys are always here to help. Your initial consultation will always be free: 1-800-LEE-FREE.