The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 29, 2012

Keep Halloween fun and safe

But parents still must be vigil

The Tribune-Democrat

— ’Tis the season for ghouls, ghosts and witches. It’s a time for parades, parties, hayrides and pumpkin decorating.

And seemingly every community offers an evening when children dress up in costumes from the weirdest, to the cutest to the scariest and go door to door collecting goodies of every type.

It wasn’t always that way, unfortunately.

A spate of stories locally as well as nationally of tainted goodies caused communities in the ’90s to opt on the side of safety and hold afternoon events at neighborhood centers and fire halls. Police departments, including those in the city of Johnstown and Richland, offered treats that children and parents could be sure were untainted.

In 1991, at least eight people – five children and three adults – were sickened by candy obtained at a residence in North Woodbury Township, Blair County.

That same year, an inch-long nail was found in a candy bar a 2-year-old boy had collected in Greensburg.

There were stories of pins and needles found in everything from apples to candy bars to soda.

Hospitals, including Indiana, offered to X-ray free any goodies children had collected.

Times have changed, thank goodness. Our Living staff twice has published an extensive list of community trick-or-treat times, and our Weekend section and website have listed plenty of things to do to enjoy Halloween.

That doesn’t mean parents, especially, should let their guards down.

While in many communities, volunteer firefighters, civic and Crime Watch groups and other volunteers will be out helping to keep children safe, we urge parents to accompany their children.

We also caution motorists to be especially careful and alert this week when traveling through residential areas where children might be going door to door.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control offers the following tips for keeping trick-or-treaters safe:

* Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be short, soft and flexible.

* Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

* Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

* Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats eaten.

* Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.

* Always walk and don’t run from house to house.

* Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

* Look both ways before crossing a street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

* Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.

* Walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

* Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.

* Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.

* Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Don’t stop at dark houses. Never accept rides from strangers.

* Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

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