10 tips to keep your child safe and sound at Halloween
Festive hazards: Fireworks are illegal in Ireland with the exception of licensed displays
Make sure your child is supervised by an adult when trick or treating. File photograph: Getty
1) Check the labels
When you are buying children’s costumes and costume accessories, such as wigs, look for the CE mark. This shows that it has been made with safety in mind and according to safety legislation. Be aware of fire risks and try to find costumes that are flame resistant. If you are buying props for your child’s costume, keep in mind that younger children – under the age of three – can choke on small parts and some props may be unsuitable for them.
2) Ensure the costume fits
Costumes should fit your child properly to prevent trips and falls. Avoid items such as oversized shoes, high heels, long dresses and long capes. Make sure all costumes, accessories and props are suitable for your child’s age and developmental stage. Masks can make it difficult for your child to see and can reduce their hearing and obstruct their breathing too. Instead, try using non-toxic face make-up, but make sure it adheres to a safety standard and check that your child is not allergic to it.
3) Visible in the dark
The evenings are dark this time of year so it’s important to make sure your child can be seen when out and about. Remember many costumes are dark so, ideally, your child should wear a reflective strip on the front and back or a high-vis vest and carry a torch. Your child can easily remove their vest when they arrive at each house and slip it back on again before moving onto the next one. It is a good idea to avoid poorly lit areas and use footpaths where available. If you are driving at Halloween, remember to slow down and watch out for children in dark costumes out and about and treat or treating.
4) Supervise your child
Make sure your child is supervised by an adult when trick or treating. If there is a group of children, having an adult at the front and back of the group is a good way to keep an eye on everyone. Remind your child about “stranger danger” and the importance of not talking to people they do not know. For older children going out without an adult, ensure they have a mobile phone and know how to dial 999 and 112 in an emergency.
5) Don’t use candles
Avoid lighting candles around your home as these are a fire risk. Try battery-operated candles instead. Make sure batteries are out of reach of children. If using novelty Halloween lights check that they have a visible CE mark and have full contact details of the manufacturer and importer. Read more about safety from fire at home.
6) Fireworks and bonfires
Every year children get firework- and bonfire-related injuries and some are scarred for life. Fireworks are illegal in Ireland with the exception of licensed displays. Most of the illegal fireworks and bangers on sale in markets and from street traders are manufactured without safety standards and can cause serious injuries to children. Plan family fun and activities that don’t include fireworks and do not allow children attend unsupervised bonfires. Be cautious even at supervised bonfires. You never know when someone might throw something into the bonfire that could be highly flammable or toxic. Water or the appropriate fire extinguisher should always be nearby. Children should never hold lit sparklers.
7) Choking hazards
Children should not be given sweets that may cause choking. Choking is a very common hazard among children. Check your child’s treats and remove treats that aren’t in sealed packaging or look suspicious. Make sure treats are safe to eat and remove marble-sized sweets. Offer some healthier options to children such as fruit. Read more about choking.
8) What to do in an emergency
Keep your child away from fire risks such as open fires, candles and bonfires. This is very important when they are dressed up in their costume as they can catch fire quickly. Make sure children wear “normal” clothes under their costume, so that some protection may be given should the costume catch fire. If your child’s clothes catch fire get them to stop, drop and roll. This involves them stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with their hands and rolling until the fire is out. If they cannot stop, drop and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. If their skin gets burnt and it is safe to do so, hold the burnt skin under cool running tap water for 20 minutes and seek medical help right away. In an emergency phone 999 or 112.
9) Pets and other animals
Teach your child not to approach any animals at Halloween. Animals can be frightened by fireworks and can act out. Remember, chocolate is very bad for pets. Explain this to your child and remind them not to share their Halloween sweets or chocolate with their pets.
10) Blowing up balloons
Only adults should inflate balloons and remember children should also be supervised around balloons. They can be a choking risk for children.
- Brenda Shannon is HSE child safety programme lead. See mychild.ie for more