Readers! Sometimes I think that in our uber-safe society, poor scribes are locked in a room and told they can’t come out until they dream up some new worry — no matter how far-fetched — to caution folks about. (My current fave is the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s apple bobbing cautions, below.) That’s why I love this column from Spiked-Online,Â a great, British site filled with all sorts of surprising info and opinions. It’s by Nathalie Rothschild, a freelance writer based inÂ New York. Visit her personal website here, and find her on Twitter @n_rothschild.
THE HORRORS OF HALLOWEEN ADVICE by Nathalie Rothschild
Americans areÂ reallyÂ into Halloween….but some are taking the mischievous tradition of scaring the bejesus out of one another a tad too seriously.
ABC NewsÂ warns that â€˜while this is a time for little ones to have fun, parents shouldnâ€™t let the kidsâ€™ enthusiasm drown out common sense. There are many hazards associated with Halloween.â€™ Face paint can trigger allergies, costumes can get caught in car doors or catch fire, masks can slip over the eyes, young children can choke on treats, cut their fingers off while carving pumpkins or be kidnapped by strangers.
Halloween is apparently a highlight not just for candy-crazy, fun-loving kids, but also for every health-and-safety-obsessed organisation in the nation.
TheÂ Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÂ advise parents to ensure their children go trick-or-treating in groups or with a trusted adult, that they carry flashlights and that they walk, not run, between houses. Adults should limit the amount of treats kids eat and check them for choking hazards before the kids start gorging them. Kids should only be allowed factory-wrapped candies and should avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers. Their costumes should be flame-resistant and, to be on the even safer side, kids should not walk near lit candles.
TheÂ National Fire Protection AssociationÂ says each house should have two clearly marked exits in case of an emergency. Battery-powered or electric candles are preferable, but if you do insist on lighting candles, they should be kept at least one foot away from decorations.
TheÂ American Academy of PediatricsÂ believes small children should never carve pumpkins. â€˜Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.â€™ Trick-or-treaters should stay on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, they should â€˜walk at the far edge of the roadway facing trafficâ€™.
The American Academy of OphthalmologyÂ warns of the hidden dangers of buying decorative contact lenses without a prescription. There is apparently no such thing as a â€˜one size fits allâ€™ contact lens. â€˜Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea.â€™
heÂ US Food and Drug AdministrationÂ says â€˜partygoers and partythrowersâ€™ should avoid juice that hasnâ€™t been pasteurised or otherwise processed. Before bobbing apples, a traditional Halloween game, thoroughly rinse the apples under cool, running water to reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on them. â€˜As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.â€™
TheÂ American Red CrossÂ has published 13 (nearly) rhyming tips for a safe Halloween. For example, â€˜If you visit a house where a stranger resides, accept treats at the door and, please, donâ€™t go inside.â€™
TheÂ US Consumer Product Safety CommissionÂ offers this helpful image as guidance for proper costume wear:
The Halloween safety tips lists go on, but you probably get the drift.
Why are these organisations so scared of Halloween? Or, rather, why are they so scared of letting parents use their common sense, of allowing people just to let loose and to have some respite from the worries, rule-making and diet-watching that are already part of their and their childrenâ€™s everyday life? Whenever the public sees an opportunity to relax and have fun, health-and-safety obsessives see an opportunity to scare them back into submission. Itâ€™s not necessarily sinister, though, itâ€™s just their creepy, intuitive reaction to stop people from experiencing fun overload.
Sure, all these dangers are a possibility â€“ decorations can catch fire, apples could be covered in bacteria and masks may temporarily obscure kidsâ€™ vision. But pointing out the obvious, over and over, and exaggerating the risks behind these things wonâ€™t make people feel safer. It just helps turn what is a harmless holiday into a nightmarish, control-freakish night of health-and-safety horror. – N.R.