Can you feel it?
The chilling of the air.
The turning of the tide.
The thinning of the veil.
Must be the season of the witch.
That's right, phriends, All Hallow's Eve is upon us. I must admit, this is one of my all-time favorite holidays – I love a good thrill, and something about October and all things Halloween continues to get the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention even as an adult.
Halloween started as an event to commemorate the end of the bright, shiny summer months and transition earlier people into the graying uncertainty of winter. In addition to marking the change of seasons, it was also believed that this time of year allowed the spirits to roam the Earth and for prophecies to provide guidance to all the souls still on this side of the dirt. To a people who lived entirely at the whim of volatile Mother Nature, this could provide comfort as they attempted to forecast what was to come. Never mind the creepy ghost parts; that is the price you pay for predictability (like an earlier version of "We're with the government, and we are here to help." I feel better already).
Fast forward, and you have the fun-loving holiday that has evolved from pagan times – trick or treating, costumes, parties, pranks – and little to zero extended-family commitment if you play your cards right. Holiday bliss.
Unfortunately, Halloween (like most fun things) comes with a set of risks that we tend to poo-poo as we go about our spooky business. Sure, the Joneses kids maybe got a syringe full of pure uncut Peruvian cocaine in their candy last year, but statistically, that means we are ok, right?
WRONG. Halloween is in the top five holidays that culminate in visits to the Emergency Room, with over half of those visits being from kids. I guess taking small humans who have not fully developed their critical thinking skills or gross motor movements, sticking them in unwieldy costumes with vision-altering masks, kicking them out the door in the dark for a once-annual romp around the neighborhood through unlit side yards, and then pumping them full of high-octane sugar can lead to accidents. Color me surprised.
So, what can we do to prevent accidents as parents and good neighbors? One may think these tips are common sense, but as statistics continue to show, common sense is anything but common. Read on.
While worrying about the local cartel and their nefarious attempts to get kids to sample their wares is a little far-fetched and likely unnecessary, it is a good idea to check the kids' candy before allowing them to partake. Especially if you have younger children, choking remains a real risk, and food allergies are a significant concern. Also, ensure candies are individually wrapped and free of tampering, needles, razor blades, metal shavings, ball-peen hammers, and other items that tricksters may try to slip past you. It is also good sense to ration out that candy – a trip to the ER from a sugar overdose is just as much not fun as a trip from the thousands of other ways a youngster can injure themselves.
Physical safety is also huge. When adorning your munchkins, please make sure they have good shoes for walking, can see adequately through their masks, and don't have other trip hazards built into their costumes, like oversized capes. Give them good flashlights with fresh batteries and use glowsticks and reflective tape to ensure drivers and other trick-or-treaters can see them. If you allow older kids to terrorize the neighborhood on their own, give them a curfew and approved route, and teach them to watch for drivers – never assume a driver has seen them.
Finally, be a good neighbor. Leave your yard lights on so those passing through can see the giant red ant hill they are about to waltz through. Better yet, get rid of the fire ants before toddlers come en masse through your property. If you are not participating in giving out candy, leave the yard lights on anyways, and make sure your homeowner's insurance is up to date when little Timmy breaks his leg on the pile of sticks you have neglected in your yard. No holiday would be complete without a good ole fashioned American lawsuit.
Finally, be prepared in case something does happen. We harp on this over and over – an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but an inch of preparation is worth miles of regret. Keep stocked with tourniquets, gauze, and hemostatic dressings, and make sure your older unaccompanied kids know how to use them.
Alright, ghost-riders, go forth and be phearless this Halloween – but cautiously so. From the meandering medical mind of Phokus, stay safe!
Can you feel it?