2004-10-15 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer


Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer It’s that time of year again; Halloween is fast approaching. Costumes line the aisles of many stores, and bags upon bags of Halloween candy are prominently displayed. This fun filled holiday can be both enjoyable and safe if you follow a few helpful safety precautions.

For many kids, the treats are the best part of Halloween, but it is safest if they wait to eat their treats when they get home. Instruct your children to save their treats until you have a chance to look them over. Any candy or food with an already open wrapper should be thrown away, and if you are doubtful about the safety of any other treats your child receives, they should be thrown away as well. Feeding your children a filling dinner before the evening’s festivities will help them to not nibble until they get home. You may also consider doling out healthier treats this year such as single servings of popcorn or cereal, packaged fruit rolls, or packaged crackers with cheese or peanut butter.

Pumpkin carving is yet another highlight of this holiday, and children always want to help with this fun activity. Younger children should not be allowed to carve the pumpkin as they may cut themselves. Instead, let them draw the face on the pumpkin or help to clean it out. If you decide to put an actual candle in your pumpkin, be sure to set it out of the way so as not to cause a fire hazard, and make sure the candle is out at the end of the night.

Trick-or-treating is a great activity that many children look forward to all year long. If the children are older, it may be suitable for them to go without adult supervision as long as they are in a group; no child should go trick-

or-treating alone. Younger children should always be accompanied, either by an older, responsible teenager or an adult. If your children are going out without adult supervision, plan a route and a return time. Trick-or-treaters should stick to neighborhoods and houses that they know, and they should avoid poorly lit areas. Instruct your children to never enter a stranger’s home. Remind your children that every day rules still apply: no talking to strangers and no taking rides from strangers.

At least one member of the party should be carrying a mobile phone and a flashlight. If the weather forecast is bad, or if you or your children would prefer alternate plans instead of door-to-door trick-or-treating, there are several options available. Local shopping centers and malls often have trick-or-treating and other festivities available on Halloween. You may also want to consider throwing a Halloween theme party or bringing your children to a local haunted house instead.

Choosing a safe and appropriate costume also remains a concern, especially for younger children. Make sure their costume fits properly. An excessively long costume could cause tripping and falling. Shoes should fit well and be sturdy. Look for the label “Flame Resistant” when purchasing costumes, beards, wigs and masks; this label indicates that the item will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. Should you decide to create your own costume instead of purchasing one, make sure to choose flame retardant fabrics. Also any props carried by your child should be made of a soft, flexible material without sharp edges to help prevent possible injury. Choosing make-up or face paint instead of a mask is also a good idea since masks often obstruct vision and breathing. When purchasing face paint, always be sure that it is nontoxic and hypoallergenic in order to help avoid irritation. If you do opt for a face mask, make sure that it fits securely and that the eye holes are large enough to provide good peripheral vision.

There are more sources you can visit to learn more about Halloween safety. The National Safety Council’s website www.nsc.org is an excellent example. Also, the Dr. Spock Company’s website at www.drspock.com also contains a wealth of safety information.

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