It's that time of year when ghosts and ghouls frolic with witches and vampires. Towns are transformed by jack-o-lanterns offering their Cheshire cat grins, while homes are awash in Autumn hues and dotted with spider webs and garden gravestones.
Halloween is a magical time for kids, but it's also a time of year where safety should be as much a priority as collecting candy.
Roughly 40 million costume-clad tricksters, ranging in ages from 5 to 14, take to the streets each year in search of Halloween booty. With so much volume in areas across the country on one particular day, and the naivete of this target age group, the responsibility falls on parents and other well-minded adults to ensure Halloween is a safe time for trick-or-treaters. There are measures to take whether you're manning the door or escorting the troops around town, in addition to general tips to heed. Check off each item as you complete the task.
In advance of Halloween, follow this advice.
* Help children choose costumes that will be safe. Hems should be reasonably cut so that tripping will not occur, and proper footwear should be worn.
* Masks can be hot and obscure vision. Consider water-based, hypoallergenic face paints instead. Use caution when applying around the eyes.
* Stock up on glow sticks or flash lights children can carry. This way they'll be able to illuminate the way when dusk falls. They'll also be more visible to other pedestrians and drivers. Inexpensive flash lights are often sold at home centers and supermarkets. What's more, they typically come in orange - perfect for Halloween.
* Map out an area that the children are allowed to visit, one you feel is safest. Set curfews. One safe option is to plan to take trick-or-treaters to a shopping or strip mall, where store owners often oblige candy-seeking children. It's well lit and public enough to improve the safety odds.
HOUSE OF HORRORS?
While a home can be decked out to fit with the Halloween theme, it should also be safe enough to welcome visitors to the door.
* Take the time to identify and remove tripping hazards leading to the doorway. These may include flower pots, decorations, garden hoses, etc.
* A spooky appeal is one thing, but your front door and walkway should be well lit enough for trick-or-treaters to make their way safely.
* Animals may be extra jumpy or weary on Halloween - they're simply not used to the added activity. Keep your pets locked safely in another room so they won't lunge for the door, or worse, get outside.
* Consider purchasing non-food fun treats for those who come a-calling. They'll be safer and more fun alternatives to sugar-laden candies. Or, healthy, individually wrapped foods can be another unique idea.
*Keep a first aid kit fully stocked and nearby in the event of accidents. It is also a good idea to learn CPR and The Heimlich Maneuver as extra precaution for children who are gobbling up treats en route to your door.
HAUNTING THE 'HOOD
It's easier to control safety at home, but while out and about, there may be inadvertent dangers.
* Explain that children should remain on the sidewalk or illuminated paths. They should know the danger of darting out into the street or across driveways and alleys. Drivers can have a difficult time making out children in the twilight.
* Obey all local traffic and pedestrian regulations, such as crossing at crosswalks.
* Assign a chaperone, either you or perhaps an older sibling, who can accompany younger children. Don't let young kids go out alone.
* Children should not enter the homes of strangers. Be sure they are aware of this rule.
* Inform children not to indulge in their treats before they get home.
AFTER THE PILLAGING
Once trick or treating is over, the safety measures continue.
* Treats need to be thoroughly checked by an adult when children get home. Tampering is rare, but proper precautions should always be taken.
* Divide up the candy so that it can be enjoyed over the course of days following Halloween, and not just gorged on the day after.