By Pat Kelly. While some might label them killjoys, health professionals have identified some Halloween hazards that could land morose merry-makers in the emergency department.
Before donning scarf and coat and taking the little ones trick-or-treating, it may be wise to take on board the advice gleaned from a number of health sources and presented in the Huffington Post.
- When applying face paint, the FDA in the US recommends testing a small amount on a patch of skin to check for allergic reactions before slapping it on liberally. The FDA has a list of approved colour additives (http://1.usa.gov/Se2qFp), which you may want to check out.
- Decorative contact lenses should come with a caution, as most are purchased without prescription and may not be suitable for a particular individual’s eye. This can result in infections, tears or even blindness, in extreme cases. Dr Thomas Steinmann from the American Academy of Ophthalmology points out: “It’s more than a piece of costume jewellery — this is a medical device.”
- The old favourite Halloween pastime of bobbing for apples has raised concerns in recent years as a potentially fertile breeding ground and transmission vessel for infectious germs as the winter approaches. An alternative is to challenge the children to fish the apples out using chopsticks.
- One for the adults attending Halloween parties: Excessive alcohol consumption. Enough said.
- And a different type of ‘black stuff’: If there is a bountiful haul from the trick-or-treating, black liquorice should be scoffed only in moderation. Excessive consumption can cause potassium levels to fall, leading to abnormal heart rhythms or other cardiovascular complications in some adults, particularly those in the at-risk group and those over the age of 40.
- Finally, inappropriate masks can provide a real and potentially lethal hazard to children. Many masks contain only tiny eye-holes, placing children at risk when crossing the road to visit the next house, or even during regular indoor activities, such as climbing the stairs, as peripheral vision is severely reduced. A wig and face-paint may be a safer option.
And if we are not too horrified by all of these risk factors to venture out… then happy Halloween to all.