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Consumer alert

Take precautions to avoid real horrors this Halloween

As someone who had to extinguish a defective Halloween flashlight that caught fire, perhaps I have a greater appreciation of safety this time of year. There’s nothing like the smell of smoke coming from a little battery-powered light to get the adrenaline going and affirm the idea that threats to safety can come from just about any angle.

Given how many junky products are on the market and how silly people try to be around Halloween, it’s worthwhile to take a few precautions to help avoid horrors of the real kind. Paying extra attention during this holiday makes sense, given that children are the most likely to end up in an emergency room.

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Here is some safety advice for trick-or-treaters, distilled from the guides of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

 If you’re making a costume at home, avoid flammable spray-on glitter or glue and instead sew on sequins.

Be sure the child’s costume fits right, so it’s not too long (which can cause tripping), or that visibility is obscured by too-small eye holes or a too-large mask.

 Test makeup in advance by using small amounts on the arm to check for potential allergies or reactions.

 Trick-or-treat in well-lit areas supervised by an adult or adults carrying a working flashlight.

 Wear a light-colored costume or add reflective tape to costumes and bags to be more visible to vehicles.

 Don’t consume homemade treats from anyone but people you know well.

 Don’t let children carve pumpkins. Adults should try to use knives specifically meant for carving.

 Keep candle-lit jack-o’-lanterns away from anything that could ignite, such as curtains, and never leave them unattended. Consider using battery-operated lights instead.

The precautions aren’t all that onerous. And at least you’ll know that you’ve done what you can to keep the kids safe. Hopefully, you won’t end up with a Halloween toy or flashlight that catches fire. (If you do, choose a safer method of extinguishing it than I did — running outside and shoving it into dirt.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Mitch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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