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Spooky safety

Red Cross offers safety tips for this Halloween

Sentinel photo by BRIAN COX
A house along Main Street in Yeagertown is decked out for Halloween, which is Sunday.

LEWISTOWN — As the end of October approaches, so too does Halloween and the sight of costumed children trekking through the neighborhood trick-or-treating.

But, trick-or-treating is an activity that carries some risk, especially because it typically takes place at night. And that doesn’t even take into account the still-persistent threat of COVID-19.

Hoping to help parents provide a fun, yet safe experience for their children, the American Red Cross has a few tips for those headed out to enjoy Halloween this year.

The first tip is one perhaps parents wouldn’t expect — the potential for a higher-than-average turnout of trick-or-treaters this year after many places either scaled back or canceled trick-or-treating in its entirety last year due to the pandemic.

“Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the U.S. and with most communities returning to normal activities this school year, people should expect a higher volume of visitors in search of tricks and treats,” said Ken Geary, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Mountains Chapter of the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region. “Whether you’re handing out goodies or going door-to-door, with just a few simple considerations you can make sure your family and those around you are safe and sound.”

The Red Cross also urges parents to make a cloth mask part of their kids’ costume as an added layer of protection.

“A costume mask is not a safe substitute for a cloth mask,” the Red Cross said. “Avoid wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask as it can make breathing difficult.”

The Red Cross also urges parents to pick outdoor activities in lieu of indoor ones as the risk for virus transmission is much lower in outdoor settings. It is also recommended that hand sanitizer is used while trick-or-treating after touching objects or other people and for everyone to wash their hands thoroughly when they arrive home. The Red Cross also advises against trick-or-treating in large groups in order to maintain social distancing from others.

But even if precautions are taken against the virus, there are still the same dangers that are present every Halloween. Parents can take steps, however, to make things as safe as possible.

First and foremost, the Red Cross urges parents to make sure trick-or-treaters can see through any costume mask and be seen by others, especially drivers. Give kids a flashlight to light their way and consider adding reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.

Another suggestion is to plan the trick-or-treat route in advance and make sure adults know where their children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door.

When trick-or-treating, many houses will have dogs, cats or other pets. Be sure to keep an eye out for any animals that have gotten loose and only allow children to pet animals if the animal’s owner says it is OK. Additionally, children should not approach a strange animal without the animal’s owner present.

In neighborhoods with sidewalks, trick-or-treaters should walk there and not in the street. Avoid running. Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner. Don’t cross between parked cars.

The Red Cross stresses trick-or-treaters should only visit homes that have a porch light on, and never go inside a stranger’s home.

Once the trick-or-treating is complete, parents should check all candy before the child eats any of it. Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards. Discard any items with unfamiliar brand names.

As for those who plan to give out candy to trick-or-treaters, there are steps they can take to make things safer for everyone.

The Red Cross urges those participating to give treats outdoors, if possible, and to avoid or limit direct contact with trick-or-treaters by setting up an area with individually bagged treats for kids to take. Givers are also asked to wash their hands before handling treats, maintain social distancing and wear a cloth mask.

Additionally, if giving out candy, light the area well so young visitors can see and sweep leaves from sidewalks and steps. The Red Cross says to be sure to clear the porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.

But even if there is a mishap involving your kids, the Red Cross provides first-aid advice, too.

Parents can download the free Red Cross First Aid app for instant access to expert advice. Parents can use the Red Cross Emergency app for weather alerts and to let others know they are safe if severe weather occurs.

All Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

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