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Keeping pets and humans safe during Halloween and around fireworks

Last Updated on : 29th October 2019

Many people eagerly await Halloween and love the excitement around Trick or Treat and fireworks – but for an awful lot of people it is extremely stressful and frightening. This is particularly the case for a lot of small children, the elderly and pets. Here are some suggestions as to how you can make things safer for your family and less stressful for those who don’t relish this time of year and ensure it is an enjoyable time for everyone.

For Children

Trick or Treat:

Fancy dress costumes are not usually waterproof or flame resistant – wear warm clothes underneath, take a waterproof and be extremely careful to avoid naked flames.

Fire Safety tips from the Office for Product Safety and Standards and the Child Accident Prevention Trust.

Loose clothing can catch fire if it gets too close to a burning candle.  The key safety trip if you’re going out to scare, is to know what to wear.

If possible, buy from a reputable store or website. Cheap imported costumes may not meet UK safety standards and may carry fake safety labels.

Look for a costume with a CE mark. This doesn’t mean it won’t catch light. But it has been tested for fire safety so it should burn more slowly. There is a new safety symbol, the UKCA (UK conformity assessed mark) which has been introduced as Britain plans to leave the European Union.

Campaigns following the horrendous burn injuries suffered by Claudia Winkleman’s daughter have resulted in the British Retail Consortium introducing stricter fire safety tests for children’s dressing-up costumes. Many reputable retailers and manufacturers in the UK have signed up to this voluntary code. There should be a label that stating: “This garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability”.

Encourage children to layer up. If children wear clothes under their dressing-up costumes, there will be a layer of protection between the costume and their skin. This can help protect their skin if their costume catches fire. Be careful with tights and leggings that can melt onto the skin.

Without scaring them, talk to children and teach them to Stop, Drop and Roll just in case the worst happens. The instinct is to run. It Is a good idea to practice at home stopping, dropping to the ground, covering their face with their hands, and rolling over a few times to put out the flames.

Candles and lit pumpkins always add to the spooky atmosphere but can be dangerous. Keep them well out of the way from trick or treaters, don’t put them on steps or paths. Keep them clear from any Hallowe’en decorations that might catch light.

Remember not to put candles on a surface that may burn. And, in all the excitement, don’t forget to blow them out when you’re done.

You may want to switch to LED / flameless battery-powered candles for extra safety (but please make absolutely sure the battery compartment is secure as button batteries are corrosive).

Talk to your children and explain to them a little of what to expect, ensuring that they understand that it is not real. Some houses do go over the top to make the evening as frightening as possible and always hold little one’s hands tightly so that they don’t bolt if they are suddenly frightened.

Remind children and teenagers that they should only ever approach houses where there is an obvious sign; such as a pumpkin, showing that the residents are actively participating in the fun.  Many people find Trick or Treating intimidating and offensive and children must respect their privacy.

Remind older children about the importance of staying together as a group, general politeness and road safety, as in their excitement they may dash back and forth across roads.

Please be aware that Trick or Treat sweets are often neither fresh or particularly hygienic and will not have been screened for anyone with a nut allergy! Children should be discouraged from scoffing their sweets in darkness. Eat them at home, once you have had a proper look at what they have been given.

Fireworks:

It is always safest to attend a public firework display as this will be properly regulated. However, if you are planning to hold a fireworks party at home; prepare in advance:

Equip yourself with an appropriately stocked first aid kit, a bucket of sand, easy access to plenty of water, a fire blanket and a bottle of sterile saline to irrigate eyes should you get sparks in your eyes. Check all your fireworks conform to British Standards and that you have sufficient space to ignite them safely.

Despite all the precautions, things can go wrong. Burns are extremely common this time of year and during the four weeks around November the 5th, around 1,000 people will be injured from fireworks. Of these accidents, nearly 600 are likely to occur at home or private parties and nearly 400 accidents involve children under the age of 13.

First Aid for Burns: Scalds from hot drinks, or burns from fire

Hold the affected area under cool, running water for a full 20 minutes. Keep the casualty warm and look out for signs of shock. Remove any loose clothing and jewellery as soon as possible however NEVER remove anything that has stuck to a burn. If a child is burnt and the area is blistered and larger than a 50p piece; phone for an ambulance immediately. Once the burn has been cooled for a full 20 minutes, the burn can be loosely covered with cling film or inserted into a sterile plastic bag if appropriate –alternatively keep running it under water until the paramedic arrives. All burns should be assessed by a health professional.

NEVER:

– Touch the burn

– Remove anything stuck to the burn

– Use lotions, ointments or creams

– Use adhesive dressings

– Break blisters

If clothing is on fire, remember: stop, drop, wrap and roll.

Try to prevent the casualty from panicking or running – as any movement or breeze will fan the flames and make things worse – Stop. Help the casualty drop to the ground and wrap them in a blanket, coat, or rug to smother the flames. Protect yourself from the fire. Roll the casualty along the ground until the flames have been smothered.

For Pets:

Fireworks

A recent survey by the RSPCA revealed that 45% of dog’s display signs of fear at the sound of fireworks. Similarly, cats and other animals find this time of year extremely distressing. It is particularly important to keep your pet safe and happy during this potentially stressful season; ignoring their fear could result in negative incidents such as aggressive defensive behaviour or even in a pet running away.

The following are signs your pet may be stressed:

Growling, barking, flattened ears, tucking their tail between their legs, cowering, lip licking and raised hair on the back of their necks.

If they are showing further signs of:

Destructiveness, aggression, licking and chewing, diarrhoea and a change in eating habits – you should talk to your Vet to rule out any other underlying cause and get their advice.

The following are simple steps you can take to minimise the trauma experienced by your pet:

– Do not take your pet to a fireworks display

– Keep your pet indoors in the evening (walk dogs during the day)

– Try to behave as normally as possible, dogs, will pick up on your anxiety and changes in routine

– Feed your pet before fireworks start, as if they become unsettled they may be reluctant to eat

– Make sure there is somewhere your pet can hide if they want to e.g. under furniture or in a cupboard (this is particularly important for cats). Do not try and coax pets out of hiding places as this will make them more stressed.

–  Close all windows and curtains and play music to muffle the sounds of fireworks and minimise sudden flashes of light

– Have the TV or radio on to distract your pet and turn up the volume if necessary to drown out the fireworks.

–  Be sensitive to your pet’s needs. Comfort your pet if it helps them to relax, or leave them alone if they withdraw.  Ensure they are safe and are not likely to hurt themselves.

– Never be cross with your pet while it is scared.

– A new toy, chew or blanket can prove a welcome distraction and comforter.

– If your pet lives outside (e.g. rabbits or Guinea pigs), either bring the cage inside into a quiet room, a shed or garage, or partly cover the cage with blankets to muffle loud noises. Ensure the animals can still see out. Add extra bedding to the cage so the animals have something to burrow into

– Make sure your pet is in a safe, secure environment which it won’t be able to escape from – block off cat flaps, shut dogs in rooms before opening the front door, secure all cages etc.

If you have a particularly anxious animal, there are longer term actions you can take in preparation including behavioural therapy and pheromone diffusers. Remain extremely sensitive to the needs of your pet.

Written by Emma Hammett at First Aid for Life

First Aid for Life is an award-winning, fully regulated first aid training business providing tailored first aid courses for groups and individuals. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals. All our courses cover first aid for burns, CPR, choking and most common medical emergencies and adults, babies and children. We also run First Aid for Dogs.

Award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs – Please visit our site and learn more about our practical and online courses. It is vital to keep your skills current and refreshed.

It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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