Fall safety tips from OHSU Doernbecher and the Oregon Poison Center

As colorful leaves fall from the trees and the air turns cool and crisp, it’s important to remember that the fall season can pose some safety risks. We asked the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University and the Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center for tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this autumn.

Have a safe Halloween

  • DCH HalloweenTalk to your child about the difference between reality and make-believe. The scarier aspects of Halloween can frighten preschool-aged children.
  • When choosing or making a costume, look for fire-resistant material and bright colors. If you choose a dark color, add reflective tape so drivers can see your trick-or-treater. Be sure that the costume is not a tripping hazard.
  • Avoid sharp objects or accessories and opt for make-up or face paint instead of a mask, if possible. To help eliminate skin irritation, choose face paint with the following labels: “made with U.S.-approved colored additives,” “laboratory tested,” “non-toxic” or “meets federal standards for cosmetics.”
  • While cosmetic, decorative or colored contact lenses may be the perfect complement to a costume, the OHSU Elks Children’s Eye Clinic recommends against them due to safety concerns including blurred vision and injury to the eyes.
  • Be sure children have adult supervision while trick-or-treating – and carry a flashlight. If older children are going with a group, review safety rules, including street safety, with them in advance. Know the route they plan to take, set a curfew and provide a cell phone, if necessary. Verify that children know their last name and phone number in case they get separated from their chaperone; consider attaching this information to the child’s costume.
  • Colorful glow sticks are becoming increasingly popular. Overall, these products are safer than candles, but they are easily broken. While considered nontoxic, the contents may cause irritation or nausea if they come in contact with skin or eyes.
  • Use battery-powered candles rather than candles with a real flame. If you do use a real candle in a jack-o-lantern, place the pumpkin a safe distance away from where trick-or-treaters will be walking or standing. Be sure your home is well lit for trick-or-treaters, and clear steps and lawns of tripping hazards.
  • Instruct children not to eat any treats until an adult has checked them. With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon, these rules are even more important as some marijuana edibles may look like everyday candy and holiday treats. Dispose of any candy that has loose or open wrappers. Wash and cut up all fruit to inspect it before eating.
  • Don’t forget your pets! Remember that some treats — especially chocolate — can be poisonous to our furry or feathered friends.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in cold weather

  • Be aware of increased exposure to carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be fatal if inhaled in large quantities. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases when the weather turns cold as heating devices are used and closed windows decrease fresh air circulation.
  • Know what can cause increased exposure, such as a leaking car muffler, improperly functioning home heating furnaces, woodstoves used in poorly ventilated rooms or burning charcoal indoors.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in your home or vehicle, and get fresh air immediately if symptoms such as headache, nausea, sleepiness or vomiting occur.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home; use detectors that are approved by Underwriters Laboratories (these products will have the statement ‘UL-approved’ on the packaging).
  • Check heating appliances annually and before you first use them in cold weather.

Keep antifreeze and windshield washing fluid away from children and pets.

  • Prevent exposure to antifreeze products and windshield-washing fluid, which contain toxic chemicals that can cause severe illness or blindness if ingested; large amounts can be fatal.
  • Store these and other car care products in locked cabinets and never store them in old food containers.
  • Rinse empty containers thoroughly and recap before discarding.

Plan for fun and safe holiday celebrations

  • Take a few minutes to poison-proof your home in anticipation of visiting holiday guests and the altered household routine that inevitably accompanies the holiday season.
  • Handle decorations and lights with care.
  • Keep poisonous plants, décor and gifts away from children and pets; lock medicines away and out of reach.
  • Be sure that houseguests store medication safely away from children.
  • Traveling for the holidays? Have your child’s car seat checked. Call the Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU for more information: 503 494-3735.
  • Post the Oregon Poison Center’s number (1 800-222-1222) by home phones and save to cell phones.

This post originally appeared on the OHSU News and Events site

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