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October 11, 2013
How to Avoid the ER during Halloween
MAYWOOD, Ill. – Halloween. With good reason it’s a favorite holiday for lots of people, not just kids. You don’t have to shop for gifts. No angst over your love life. No family arguments. It’s candy and pretending to be some wild character for a while, or seeing adorable kids dressed up and having fun. But just to make sure everyone has a good time and doesn’t get injured, here are a few tips to avoid going bump in the night and taking a ride to the ER.
- Invest in a pumpkin-carving kit and avoid knives. "Manipulating a sharp knife in a rigid pumpkin rind without injury is almost impossible for an adult or child," said Dr. Mark Cichon, chair of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Health System. "Proper tools make sure you carve the jack o' lantern and not yourself or a loved one."
- Supervise anything that is burning, from scented candles to carved pumpkins to fire pits. "Fires can happen in a flash and get quickly out of control," Dr. Cichon said. "The colder temperatures invite the warm glow of candles to the excitement of an end-of-season bonfire. Watch out for burning leaf piles."
- Use extra precaution when climbing ladders to hang decorations inside and outside. "Falls from ladders are one of the top reasons adults come to the Emergency Room and they are largely avoidable," Dr. Cichon said. "Use the right-sized ladder and one that is safe. You should work with a partner to do the job right."
- Make sure Halloween costumes offer good visibility and ease of movement. "Masks, hats, wigs, glasses, hoods - costumes often include headgear that can obstruct vision and lead to trips and falls," Dr. Cichon said. "And make sure it is easy to walk in the costume without tripping or catching on things."
- Dress for the weather. "It is easy to get overheated or too cold in the Midwest at this time of year, without the addition of wearing a costume," Dr. Cichon said. "Check skin temperature and watch for signs such as shivering or lethargy. Don't forget to wear waterproof footgear that has treads for sure footing."
- Have one adult in the trick-or-treating group wear a reflective safety vest and give each child a glow stick or flashlight to increase visibility. "You want to be able to see where you are going and also for others to see you, especially around moving vehicles," Dr. Cichon said. Stay in a group and put kids on the buddy system.
- Avoid alcohol use when supervising children. "Don't drink and accompany your kids as they trick-or-treat," Dr. Cichon said. "If you choose, enjoy a beer or cocktail at the end of the night after kids are safely indoors, or better yet, in bed."
- Avoid overtiring children. "Fatigue can lower resistance, leading to illness and injury," Dr. Cichon said. Make sure everyone gets a good night's sleep before Halloween and rest up before the night's activities. Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Maintain regular bedtimes.
- Inspect treats when you get home. "Make sure candy and goodies are age appropriate; avoid smaller pieces for younger children that could be a choking hazard," Dr. Cichon said.
- Balance candy consumption with healthy foods. "When my four children were younger my wife and I would hide their candy and allow them each to choose two pieces after dinner to limit over-consumption," Dr. Cichon said.
- Be aware of the potential for loud and scary noises. "Playful scaring antics by enthusiastic celebrants and even barking dogs can frighten children and cause them to react suddenly," Dr. Cichon said. "Falling down porch stairs, tripping over curbs and even colliding with others can result in harm."
- Drive vehicles slowly and cautiously on Halloween, especially on side streets. "Watch for trick-or-treaters but also be aware of any flying eggs or other debris that could impede vision," Dr. Cichon said.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.