Tag Archives: child safety

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween doesn't have to be scary. Following some simple tips can help give parents—and everyone—peace of mind this trick or treat night.

  • Young children should not be carving pumpkins—they can use markers or paint, but no blades. Slightly older children should only use a knife under adult supervision.
  • Candle-lit pumpkins should not be left unattended, and care should be taken that leaves, bits of paper, or other flammable things don't blow in.
  • Instead of candles, consider lighting jack o'lanterns with electric lights or glow sticks.
  • All decorations should be secured so they don't pose a threat to trick-or-treaters or other visitors, block the door, or wander across the property line
  • Never use indoor lights outdoors.
  • Kids should be in light colors, if possible, or costumes with reflective tape. At the very least, they should be carrying something well-lit.
  • Costume props and other accessories should be soft, particularly if designed to look like blades
  • A costume with a cape or long dress is a potential tripping hazard, both for the wearer and for those near them.
  • Makeup is preferable to masks, to keep peripheral vision clear.
  • Test makeup on the skin beforehand, to look for potential allergic reactions. Makeup should be removed after coming home to avoid irritating the skin.
  • Trick-or-treaters should plan a route and stick to it, keeping to well-lit streets.
  • Group sizes should be small enough that it's possible for everyone to keep track of everyone else.
  • Young children should be supervised while trick-or-treating, and should never go into someone else's house without a chaperone—or uninvited, of course.
  • If there's a town curfew on Halloween, it should be obeyed.
  • Treats should be checked over and rationed, not torn through in a single night. Unwrapped food should be tossed.
    • These tips can help kids and adults stay safe Halloween night, and make the holiday fun.

Lead Poisoning

Lead was once ubiquitous. In fact, the Latin name for the metal, plumbum, is the source of the word "plumbing." In ancient Rome, the pipes that were inherent to the city’s advanced for the time sewer system were made of lead, as were the famous aqueducts and the cups out of which they drank wine. When they did so, although the Romans watered down their wine, the alcohol wore away at the interior of the cups, and some lead got into the wine itself. This was exacerbated when they used lead pots to distill wine or cook with it, or deliberately added it to wine to sweeten it. Some scholars believe this ingestion of lead was a major contributing factor to the declining birthrates that hastened the fall of the Roman Empire.

That’s because lead, like mos heavy metals, is highly toxic to human organs, including the heart, digestive system, and reproductive system. Lead is also a neurotoxin, affecting intelligence and cognitive functioning, and when ingested by children can cause permanent neurological problems that result in behavioral issues and learning disabilities. Unfortunately, while the dangers of lead poisoning were recognized at least 2,500 years ago, lead has been widely used regardless for most of that time.

Although most new sources of exposure are in industrial settings, where people are enabled and encouraged to take precautions, lead paint was widely used until relatively recently, exposing many people to the danger. Children, especially, in homes with lead paint are prone to breathing it in or even ingesting it—since most lead paint is old by now, it is often peeling, or creating lead dust in the air. It has to be removed carefully however, lest removal worsen the problem it’s intended to solve. Lead was also added to gasoline, and its presence in exhaust cause people to inhale it and be exposed that way.

The effects of long-term lead exposure on the brain and central nervous system are irreversible, though some studies point to the possibility of repairing the harm. A very small number of children with lead encephalopathy—brain swelling caused by high levels of acute lead exposure—can avoid permanent brain damage with treatment. The other effects are largely treatable, however, using chelation therapy, which gets the lead to pass with urine rather than being stored by the body.

Poison Prevention

Nearly half of calls to Poison Control—1-800-222-1222 in the United States—involve young children. These calls add up to a hundred children in emergency rooms for poisoning every day. Here are some ways to keep your children safe:

  • Be on the alert for products that can be toxic—not only cleaning supplies, but make-up, art supplies, and other items. Don’t assume things are safe.
  • Make sure all medications are in their original, well-labeled containers.
  • Read labels carefully when giving medicine to children and turn the lights on.
  • Read the label and measure the dosage out every time. Don’t rely on memory or habit.
  • Don’t call medicine "candy." You needn’t be grim about it, but don’t treat your children’s medicine as fun or as an indulgence.
  • Get all medications in bottles with child-resistant packaging and replace the cap tightly when you’ve measured out a dose.
  • Do not have medications out on a table or counter. Measure out the dosage and take the medicine all at once.
  • Put medicines and toxic household products such as cleaners away as soon as you have finished with them.
  • Keep medications where children cannot get to them, ideally, locked away, out of sight, or both.
  • Keep medicine separate from other items, especially anything your child will legitimately need or is likely to (and is allowed to) get and use without supervision.
  • Keep toxic household products and medication away from food items.
  • Dispose of unused or unneeded medicine immediately.

If you fear or have reason to suspect your child has been poisoned, call the doctor or Poison Control immediately. Do not induce vomiting, but be prepared to take the child to get medical attention.

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is a night for fun, but for too many families, it can be a night of tragedy. While some of the traditional stories are exaggerated or false—no one has legitimately found a razor blade in an apple, for example—there are some scary facts about Halloween and kids, and not in the fun way. Twice as many children are hit by cars on Halloween than on any other night, mostly because more children are on the streets. Here are some safety tips for trick or treating:

  • Young children should be supervised as they make their rounds. Trick-or-treaters should be in groups whether there are adults with them or not; it’s not only safer, it’s more fun.
  • If you’re wearing a costume while serving as the adult, make sure it’s very visible and recognizable—homemade is better than store-bought to help keep the kids you’re supervising from wandering off with the wrong person.
  • If you’re not accompanying your kids—because they’re with a trusted neighbor or because they’re old enough to go in a group of kids—know their route, know when you can expect them back, and make sure cell phones are charged.
  • If you check in with your kids by phone, call rather than texting. They won’t be tempted to walk while texting when they respond, and you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around them.
  • Avoid dark or black costumes for kids, or put reflective tape on the costumes and bags. Costumes with lighted accessories are also good. Even the Grim Reaper can carry a reflective or light-up scythe.
  • Costumes shouldn’t impede movement, nor should they drag.
  • Masks can block peripheral vision and make even seeing straight ahead difficult. Non-toxic face paint is a better choice.
  • Turn your light out if your children are home alone. Halloween is no exception to the rule about kids opening the door to strangers.
  • Children should not carve pumpkins without an adult to watch them.
  • Don’t leave knives or lit candles around toddlers.

Don’t let the specter of danger haunt your Halloween. Using safety tricks can help make the night a treat.

Burn Safety in the Kitchen

Cooking is fun, but cooking burns, the most common kitchen injury, are not. It’s estimated that this year, 70,000 Americans will get burned badly enough to require hospital admission. The kitchen is especially dangerous for children, who are both curious and less experienced in the kitchen.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your kitchen significantly safer for the whole family. Here are some tips to prevent you—or your child—from being one of the unlucky ones:

  • Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, easily accessible and away from the stove. You should also have a smoke detector, recently tested and in good repair.
  • Turn pot handles towards the back, and don’t leave pans on the stove unattended.
  • Be careful lifting lids, steam can be a scalding hazard.
  • Never cook or carry hot food while holding your child.
  • Don’t put hot foods on tablecloths or placemats children can pull onto themselves.
  • Don’t use extension cords in the kitchen. they make electrical fires more likely.
  • Be sure appliance cords are in good repair, and not frayed. The insulation shouldn’t be cut or patchy.
  • Keep matches and lighters where children can’t get to them.
  • Candles should be in flameproof containers and should not be left unattended.
  • Put a child-safety latch not just on cabinets but on your oven as well.
  • If you heat something in the microwave, test it before giving it to kids.
  • Baby’s bottle should not go in the microwave. If you must microwave a bottle, do it very briefly and test the bottle, the nipple, and the formula before feeding.

Of course, sometimes burns do happen, despite all precautions. Minor burns can be put under cool running water, though you should not use ice. Serious burns need medical attention. Also call a doctor if you have swelling, pain, redness, oozing, or fever, which may mean infection.