Halloween is the scariest time of year, not just because of zombies and witches, but because of health dangers associated with the holiday. The US Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning against certain hazardous products associated with Halloween and ways to safeguard your health while still having fun. Here are five tips:
1. Avoid cosmetic contact lenses sold without a prescription. People who don’t need glasses wear these to achieve pitch-black vampire eyes or orange and yellow tiger eyes, but they can cause corneal scratches, eye abrasions, and even blindness from not being fitted properly by an eye professional. The FDA has determined that these are medical devices, making them illegal to sell over the counter, but you can still buy them online. To safely dress up your eyes, opt instead for eye-shadow glitter or a wacky pair of false eyelashes.
2. Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials. With so many festive candles and waitresses brandishing liquor bottles topped with sparklers, wearing a costume that’s highly flammable may be asking for trouble. Look for “flame resistant” on the label. If you make your costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon, the FDA recommends.
3. Avoid overdosing on black licorice. If you’re over age 40, the FDA recommends limiting your intake of black licorice since eating 2-ounces a day for two weeks could significantly increase the risk of heart arrhythmias. Eating more than that amount in one sitting can too. That’s because a sweetening compound in black licorice, called glycyrrhizin, can cause potassium levels in the body to drop. Red licorice, which doesn’t come from licorice root, doesn’t carry the same risks—though too much can increase your waistline and rot your teeth.
4. Do a makeup test before applying new products. If you have sensitive skin and plan to apply face paints or other new Halloween makeup products, test a small amount on your arm a few days in advance to see if rashes, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop. If it does, that’s a sign of a possible allergy. Also, check the FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA-approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use the product.
5. Look for safe treats. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys from their trick or treaters’ bags. Discard any treats that appear to have signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in the wrappers. Cider served at parties should be pasteurized or otherwise processed to destroy harmful microbes. If you’re bobbying for apples, the FDA recommends thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water and scrubbing them with a produce brush to remove surface dirt and reduce any bacteria that might be on the apples.
Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.