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Children, parents, drivers: Be careful tonight

Be safe with candy

Halloween is the spookiest time of year, but no parent wants to experience an actual scare on the holiday.

One rising Halloween concern certain parents are facing is candy that can trigger a food allergy. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one in 13 children is affected by food allergies, and the holiday can be an especially difficult time for them.

“Many traditional Halloween treats can be dangerous for children with life-threatening food allergies,” said Michael Mitchell, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “It’s imperative for parents to stay alert and conscious of what their children are given and what they consume.”

For a trick-free night, Mitchell offers these safety tips:

Food Allergy Risk:

•         Halloween candies often contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat — some of the most common allergens in children.

•         Many miniature or fun-size versions of candy products can contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts and the packaging of these smaller items may not list the ingredients.

•         Non-food treats such as bubbles, stickers and crayons provide safe yet fun alternatives for children with food allergies.

Parents of children who do not suffer from food allergies should still monitor their child’s candy consumption — large amounts of candy and sweet treats can result in abdominal pain, Mitchell says.

Another safety concern over the Halloween holiday is pedestrian-related injuries. On averagethe number of pedestrian-related fatalities among children significantly increases on Halloween compared to any other night of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Halloween results in many children being on the street after dark, and they are so excited that they may run out into the street without thinking,” Mitchell said. “Certain costumes also may impair vision, further increasing the danger of pedestrian related injuries.”

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail:

•         Children should have costumes that are bright and reflective or have reflective tape or striping on costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

•         Chaperones and children should have a flashlight with fresh batteries.

•         Shoes should fit well and costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flames.

While the average age of injury for other major holidays is under 5, the age group at greatest risk on Halloween is 10 to 14, which could be due to this age group receiving less adult supervision, according to Mitchell and the Journal of Pediatrics.

“We certainly want children to enjoy Halloween, but enjoy it in a safe manner and without a visit to the emergency department,” Mitchell said. “These simple tips can help ensure a safe Halloween for children of all ages.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation, through its Watch for Me NC pedestrian and bicycle safety program, urges parents, motorists and trick-or-treaters to be safe this Halloween.

More than 2,200 pedestrians are injured or killed in collisions with motor vehicles in North Carolina each year, and more than a third of those collisions occur in the evening or at night.

With thousands of children expected to be parading the streets today, the Watch for Me NC program offers these tips to help make Halloween safer and more enjoyable:

For parents

Before children begin their trick-or-treat rounds, parents should:

  • Plan and discuss a safe route trick-or-treaters intend to follow and establish a return time. Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas and along the established route.
  • Make sure that an adult or an older responsible youth will be supervising the outing for children under age 12.
  • Make sure your child carries a flashlight, glow stick or has reflective tape on their costume to make them more visible to cars.
  • Let children know that they should stay together as a group if going out to trick-or-treat without an adult.
  • Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.

For trick-or-treaters

To have a safe trick-or-treating adventure, trick-or-treaters should:

  • Stay in familiar neighborhoods along the established route and stop only at familiar houses unless accompanied by an adult.
  • Walk on sidewalks, not in the street. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks when available. Look both ways before crossing streets and cross when the lights tell you to cross, after you check for cars in all directions.
  • Carry a flashlight, wear clothing with reflective markings or tape, and stay in well-lit areas. Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
  • Don’t cut across yards or driveways.

For motorists

Motorists should be especially alert on Halloween and should:

  • Drive slowly through residential streets and areas where pedestrians trick-or-treating could be expected.
  • Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians, and curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
  • At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

Thousands of North Carolinians have taken the pledge to practice safe driving habits. Join them and find out more at NCVisionZero.org.

The Watch for Me NC program is a collaborative effort to reduce pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes through enhanced education and enforcement of safety laws. The program, which is being coordinated by a group of partners, including the N.C. Department of Transportation, UNC Highway Safety Research Center, and many local communities, consists of pedestrian, bicycle and driver-focused safety messages as well as concerted efforts by area police to enforce relevant laws. To learn more about the program, visit www.watchformenc.org.

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