By Art Kubic, PharmD and IPC Call Center Specialist
It’s that time of year again! Fall is finally here. Time for pumpkins, corn mazes, apple cider, leaves (and the subsequent raking/leaf blowing), and one of my absolute favorite holidays—Halloween! With trick-or-treating season right around the corner, now is the time to start making plans to ensure your little ghosts, goblins, and princesses have a safe and secure time this year.
Let’s start with the basics. Actual proven cases of random tampering and the distribution of Halloween candy are very rare. A few cases exist, but in general many involve other motives or family members- such as the case of Ronald Clark O’Bryan. In 1974, Mr. O’Bryan laced his son’s candy with a fatal dose of cyanide in order to collect on a large insurance policy. He may have laced other neighborhood children’s candy as well, but no one else consumed it or became ill. This was believed to be an attempt to cover up his misdeeds and place the blame on “random” tampering.
Therefore, it is always recommended to take precautions when going trick or treating!
Some quick tips about two Halloween traditions: dry ice and glow sticks. These are both common items we get calls on here at the Illinois Poison Center. Dry ice IS relatively safe to be used in large punch bowls or similar, but should NEVER be used in individual cups. The main concern is that ingestion of the dry ice or contact with the membranes in the mouth or skin can cause damage- essentially a cold “burn.” Extreme care should be taken to ensure it is neither ingested nor allowed to come in contact with the skin/mouth or lips.
Glow sticks and necklaces contain a compound called dibutyl pthlate. Most calls to the Illinois Poison Center involve children either chewing on the glow item until it breaks open and ingesting some of the contents, or chewing until it breaks and the substance splatters in their eye. In general, this can cause irritation more than anything else but ensuring your children do not mishandle these products (keep them out of their mouths!!) will go a long way to minimizing exposure.
Illinois Poison Center Halloween Safety Tips:
- First and foremost, consider not going out at all- an event at a school, local park district, hosting your own party, or community center organized for children may be an option. If you do go out, observing a few common safety guidelines can help ensure the safety of your children this season!
- Homemade treats (such as cakes, brownies, etc.) should be consumed only if given to your children by those that you know and trust. Otherwise throw away immediately.
- Carefully inspect all candy when you return home. Throw away any candy with opened wrappers, holes or tears in the wrapper, or candy that appears to be re-wrapped. If in doubt, throw it away!
- Do not let your children eat or snack from the bag while out trick or treating. Feed your children prior to going out. Also bringing a small bag of candy from home for treats can be a great way to prevent inadvertent munching.
- Many hospitals offer x-raying children’s candy as a possibility. Do note, however, that this may be a false sense of security and does not take the place of an active, involved parent following the tips above. While it may detect certain foreign bodies in the candy or food, it does not rule out chemical contamination.
If you have any questions this season about tips, tricks, candy safety, or any exposure to the above products don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-222-1222 any time day or night. Happy Halloween! Enjoy a safe and fun fall season!