How safe is your child’s Halloween costume?

by Howard Ankin

Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It’s a time when parents and children let their hair down and live out their fantasies for a night. While it can be a truly enjoyable holiday, few people realize that their worst fears can come true simply by picking the wrong Halloween costume.

When parents pick out a child’s Halloween costume for them, they often pay very little attention to the safety labels and manufacturing quality that goes into the costume. It’s often ignored through pleas of “Mommy, I really want this one…” Ignoring these labels and warnings can be a recipe for disaster as studies have shown that many children’s Halloween costumes contain dangerous levels of flammable materials that can catch fire in as little as a few seconds.

Recently, details showing how dangerous a child’s Halloween costume can be came to light regarding the daughter of Claudia Winkleman, co-host on Strictly Come Dancing, a popular television show in England. Last year, her eight-year old daughter Matilda was severely burned by the costume she was wearing on Halloween. Eager to go as a witch, Claudia bought Matilda a costume at the grocery store. The costume came with all the capes, hats, and striped tights a proper witch should be adorned in.>

Unfortunately, the items Matilda wore were highly flammable and were easily ignited when she walked by the open flame of a lit candle. Over the past year, Matilda has undergone multiple surgeries and is still recovering from her nearly fatal injuries.

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommends parents pay close attention to the costumes they purchase for their children. Specifically, pay particular attention to the costume’s flame resistance rating for each component of the costume. Make certain that wigs hats, capes, masks, etc. each meet safety standards. If they don’t, then don’t buy the costume.

Parents will want to test the costume to ensure your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction to it. Many of the chemicals and dyes used to make costumes and masks can irritate the sensitive skin on a child’s body. While allergic reactions are not common, they can be severe and require a visit to the emergency room and the need to contact an injury attorney. Therefore, parents should always ask the child to wear the costume before buying it to ensure the child doesn’t have a negative physical reaction to it in the store.

In addition to fire resistance, visibility should be taken into consideration. Children walking at night on Halloween are difficult to see, and indeed, the number of pedestrian/automobile accidents spikes on Halloween night when children are eagerly racing from house to house in search of the next big score. Nationwide, the rate of child pedestrian/automobile nearly doubles between the hours of 4pm to 10pm on Halloween night. To increase visibility and enhance safety, parents can add safety stripes to the back of dark costumes, and make sure their children have flashlights to guide their path. Having flashlights will also help reduce injuries from slipping and falling on sidewalks, grass, and other obstacles the child may encounter.

In this regard, comfort and movability are imperative to reducing accidents on Halloween. Costumes that restrict a child’s movement make it difficult to navigate sidewalks, stairs, and pathways. As a general rule, if a child can’t move around the living room with ease while wearing their costume, they won’t be able to move around safely outdoors. Trips and falls are leading causes of Halloween related injuries which can be almost entirely prevented by simply making sure the child can walk, see, and breathe without any difficulty.

Ideally, parents should purchase products that carry the “Made in the USA” label. This is the best way to ensure that the materials used meet stringent US Federal safety standards designed to protect children on Halloween. It means that the materials used will be as fire resistant as possible and that the chemicals and dyes used to create everything from masks to make-up are non-toxic. Further, parents should assist their children in dressing for the evening to ensure that the costume is put together correctly and that make-up, etc. doesn’t end up in eyes. This is especially important for parents of younger children who may need extra assistance getting ready.

No injury attorney wants to have a child as a client because of a Halloween related injury. Sadly, the reality is that every year thousands of children are seriously injured or killed because they wore the wrong costume, or weren’t equipped with the right safety equipment and safety instruction before the leaving the house. Parents can reduce the risk of injury for their children by taking precautions in advance. The moments spent checking costumes and going over the rules of the road with their children are precious moments that just might save a precious life.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Howard Ankin | Attorney Advertising

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