Avoiding Harmful Exposures: Halloween Safety Tips

Being a parent and a pharmacist in the Drug & Poison Information Center (DPIC), I have a unique perspective on Halloween.

I love the costumes and excitement of Hallow’s Eve, but because I have worked the hotline on this night before, I am aware of the potential safety issues and exposures to harmful substances.

We receive an uptick in calls during trick-or-treating season each year, and they typically relate to one of the following Halloween-associated items.

Halloween Safety Tips to Avoid Harmful Exposures

  1. Candy. Most parents are aware of the potential safety issues with Halloween candy. Such as checking it for holes and tears before allowing their kids to eat it. However, I do think this is a good time to remind parents about marijuana edibles. They look just like popular Halloween candies. Read a previous post to see what they look like and how harmful and readily available they are.

    And don’t forget about your furry friends! Chocolate is poisonous to dogs – store candy bags out of their reach.
  2. Glow Sticks. We received an increase in calls about these last year. The packaging says they’re non-toxic. However, the active ingredient, Dibutyl Phthalate, can cause irritation and burning if it is broken and comes into contact with the eyes, skin, or is ingested.
  3. Dry Ice. Dry ice is a popular Halloween decoration in both the yard and in the home. Sometimes families will use it to make a smoking witches brew. I would exercise caution around it, as it can cause oral burns if ingested or tissue damage if it touches the skin.
  4. Makeup. A staple of Halloween costumes! Choose non-toxic products to avoid ingredients like emollient laxatives, hydrocarbons or talc that can cause problems if swallowed or gets in the eyes.
  5. Light-up trinkets. Many of the tiny toys, flashlights and even illuminated costumes have tiny button batteries powering them. If a child swallows a button battery, it can cause internal chemical burns, which can be an emergency. Read how and why to be extra cautious of them in a previous blog post.

If you have any concerns about your child being exposed to any of the above substances, please call us at 1-800-222-1222. We can learn more about your child, the situation, and walk you through what to do next.

And of course, harmful substances aren’t the only thing to keep in mind on Halloween. Here are a few general safety tips that I wrote about in a previous blog post.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

About the Author: Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

Sheila Goertemoeller PharmD, DABAT, ICPS is a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with 22 years of experience at the Drug and Poison Information Center Hotline at Cincinnati Children’s.

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