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Halloween safety tips

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Whether you're planning to hang spooky decorations from your front porch, carve pumpkins with the family or roam around your neighborhood to trick-or-treat with the kids this Halloween, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) urge you and your family to practice safety first.

Research from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) shows that during 2007-2013:

  • Halloween was the holiday with the fifth highest number of emergency room visits among children 18 and younger presenting to U.S. emergency departments. (Holidays included New Year's Day,  Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas)
  • Head injuries accounted for the greatest proportion of injuries on Halloween (17.2 percent)
  • Of the finger/hand injuries sustained, 24.8 percent were lacerations
  • Children under age 5 (28.9 percent) and children ages 10-14 (28.3 percent), sustained the greatest proportion of injuries.

"Costumes, candy and scary monsters, tend to be top-of-mind for kids during Halloween, not falls and fractures," said John Gaffney, DO, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson. "It's important for parents to establish clear boundaries with their kids and teach them safety tips to ensure they have a positive experience, rather than having to visit the emergency room."

The AAOS and POSNA offer the following Halloween safety tips: 


  • Walk on sidewalks and never cut across yards or driveways. Obey all traffic signals and remain in designated crosswalks when crossing the street.
  • Costumes should be flame-resistant and fit properly. The child's vision should be unobstructed by masks, face paint or hats. Costumes that are too long may cause kids to trip and fall, so trim or hem them as necessary.
  • Bright-colored costumes make it easier for children to be seen at dusk or in the dark. Add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags to provide additional visibility.
  • Wear sturdy, comfortable, slip-resistant shoes to avoid falls.
  • Trick-or-treaters should only approach houses that are well-lit.
  • Both children and parents should carry flashlights to see and be seen. Do not point your flashlight above chest level to avoid obstructing the vision of other trick-or-treaters.
  • Be aware of neighborhood dogs when trick-or-treating, and remember that pets can impose a threat when you approach their homes.
  • Carry a cell phone while trick-or-treating in case of an emergency.

Pumpkin carving

  • Use a pumpkin carving kit, or knives specifically designed for carving, since they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin skin. 
  • Children should not carve pumpkins unless supervised closely by an adult. Some Halloween carving devices, designed especially for children, may be safe for use with parental supervision. Children also can empty the seeds out of the pumpkin, or use a pumpkin decorating kit.
  • Always carve pumpkins in a clean, dry and well-lit area, and make sure there is no moisture on the carving tools or on your hands.
  • If a pumpkin carver cuts him/herself, elevate the injured body part higher than the heart and apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, or if the cut is deep, an emergency room visit may be necessary.
  • Be considerate of fire hazards when lighting jack-o-lantern candles or use non-flammable light sources like glow sticks or artificial pumpkin lights.
  • Never carve pumpkins while under the influence.

Ladder safety while hanging decorations

  • Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs.
  • Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven.
  • Place the ladder in well-lit areas and avoid tripping hazards such as loose electrical extension cords across walking paths.
  • The highest standing level on a stepladder should be two steps down from the top.
  • Make sure the soles of your shoes are clean so they do not cause you to slip off the ladder rungs. Do not wear leather-soled shoes because they can be slippery.
  • It is always better to move the ladder than to overreach.
  • Never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you. 


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).