Halloween can be a time for fun especially for the trick-or-treaters participating in various activities associated with the celebration. The health professionals at the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville can be an important resource for parents at this time of year by providing answers concerning possible tainted candy, use of costume materials, and food borne illnesses. Parents can call the Poison Center Help Line at 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day when these questions come up. Do not search the Internet, but call your poison center immediately for the right answer the first time.
Some risks associated with Halloween activities are described below. Children under the age of six continue to be the number one victim of accidental poisonings and can easily mistake medications for treats. Last year, the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville received almost 48,000 calls, nearly one-half of which involved accidental ingestions in children under the age of six. Between October 29 and November 2 last year the Help Line received over 600 calls. On October 31 alone, there were almost 120 calls for help and advice to the Poison Center Help Line.
This is also the time of the year known for fall festivals, carnivals and fairs. One of the more fun aspects of these events is the various types of food available. The not-so-fun part can be food borne illness associated with undercooked or improperly handled or stored food. The Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville can provide food safety education tips and management advice for food poisoning if it does occur.
“Parents should be vigilant for malicious contamination and tampering of Halloween candy,” said Dr. Jay Schauben, director of the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville. “Likewise, we can decrease the risk to children by using non-toxic paints and materials for costume design, and by paying close attention to food/candy labels to prevent food allergies.”
The following tips can help ensure a safe Halloween for everyone:
· Parents should inspect all treats their children bring home before any are consumed and immediately discard treats with puncture holes, tears or signs of re-wrapping.
· Feed children dinner before they go out or bring along your own candy to give your children to reduce the urge to snack on treats that have not been inspected.
· Be extra careful with toddler’s goodies. Avoid choking hazards by allowing treats that are age-appropriate. Be careful with hard candy, gum, peanuts and toys with small parts.
· Caution children to not chew or bite on glow sticks or glow jewelry as these products contain an irritating chemical which may cause pain if it gets in their mouth, eyes or throat.
· If using dry ice for decorations, be aware that direct contact with the skin or mouth can cause a frostbite type injury. Wash immediately with water.
· Wear reflective costumes in the dark or carry a flashlight.
· When in doubt, throw it out!
For more Halloween safety tips, or if you suspect a poisoning has occurred, immediately call your Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 and a Specialist in Poison Information will assist you. The Poison Center Help Line is toll free and Specialists are available 24 hours a day.