The recent accidental shooting of an 8-year-old girl who was dressed up in a dark-colored Halloween costume is a stark reminder of the dangers that even the most basic Halloween costumes can sometimes present.
The Pennsylvania girl, who was wearing an all-black body costume and a black hat with a white feather tassel, was shot when a relative mistook her for a skunk that had been roaming nearby. She is currently in critical condition in a Pittsburgh-area hospital.
While this incident is certainly not the norm, it is a reminder that nearly any type of Halloween costume has the potential to be hazardous.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind for your child's Halloween costume this year.
* Fire safety is especially important on Halloween, so always opt for flame-resistant costume fabrics such as nylon or polyester, as well as fire-retardant wigs and accessories. According to Good Housekeeping, costumes with spray-on glitter can be extremely flammable due to the glue that is often used to hold the sparkles. The magazine suggests using sewed-on sequins to add some sparkle to a child's costume.
* To fireproof a homemade costume, many fire departments suggest soaking the costume in a mix of nine ounces of borax, four ounces of boric acid, and one gallon of warm water and letting it drip dry. (Do not place in a clothes dryer.) This trick will offer fire protection for up to six months or until the garment is laundered.
* The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends using hypoallergenic, non-toxic face paint instead of a mask, which can obscure a child's vision and sometimes hinder breathing. If a mask is used, make sure the eye holes are large enough to allow complete front and peripheral vision, even if it means cutting them open further yourself.
* Avoid oversized or ill-fitting costumes and make sure shoes fit well, to avoid tripping.
* Light-colored costumes are safer than dark colored costumes. With full-body morph suits a popular choice for this Halloween, opt for bright colors over black.
* Check for recalls on previously purchased costumes. Nearly 1,400 girls China-made pirate costumes were pulled this season because the buttons contained 11 times the legal lead limit, according to the New York Daily News. And last season, Target issued a recall on more than 3,000 frog masks that lacked proper ventilation, posing a suffocation hazard.
* Reflective tape and glow sticks are a great way to make your child more visible in the dark. And a flashlight is the best accessory for any Halloween costume.
Victoria Leigh Miller is a freelance writer. She has been writing about parenting topics since 2001.