Special October 2003 Halloween Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

A FEW SAFETY PRECAUTIONS CAN HELP KEEP HALLOWEEN FUN

Trick-or-treaters: When making plans for Halloween fun, be sure to include safety precautions in the evening’s line-up, says Dr. Todd Maxson, assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He recommends the following tips for a safer Halloween:

Wear only flame-retardant costumes and, if outside at night, make sure the costumes are bright and have reflectors.
Carry a light, strobe or other device so you can be seen after dark.
Travel in a group with adult supervision; make sure an adult chaperone is carrying a cell phone in case of an emergency; use the buddy system.
Plan your route to avoid busy intersections and poorly lit areas.
Go only to neighborhoods you know; avoid strangers’ houses; beware of unfamiliar pets.
Never eat unwrapped treats.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

DON’T THROW OUT THE MEAT AND SEEDS OF A CARVED PUMPKIN

Before throwing out the meat and seeds of a carved Halloween pumpkin chew on this: Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium, and the seeds are high in fiber, vitamin B12 and polyunsaturated fatty acids, one of the so-called good fats.

“The flesh of pumpkin and the seeds are abundant in many essential nutrients,” says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Pumpkins are low in fat, calories and are loaded with vitamins.”

If you are planning to use fresh pumpkin for baking, Sandon says, choose smaller, blemish- and bruise-free pumpkins. Smaller pumpkins have softer and tastier meat. To maintain freshness, pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

And don’t forget to oven roast the seeds. They are ideal as snacks or as a salad topping.

Media Contact: Amy Shields

HOW YOUR LITTLE MONSTERS CAN AVOID SKIN RASHES

Halloween dress up can be irritating for those with sensitive skin, says Dr. Ponciano Cruz, vice chairman of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

To help goblins and ghouls avoid day-after rashes, Dr. Cruz recommends:

Don’t wear masks and costumes that rub color onto the skin.
Choose loose-fitting garments since tight clothing can cause friction and irritation.
Skip the makeup, face paints or body-coloring agents.
All costume wearers should be sure to wash off their makeup, paints and color from clothing at the end of the night to avoid irritations.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

ALLERGIC TO PEANUTS? BETTER CHECK THOSE CANDY LABELS

Peanut allergy sufferers should take a moment to read ingredient lists before digging into Halloween candy, says Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Some of the goodies could contain peanuts, peanut byproducts or be made in areas with other peanut-containing foods.

“The allergy community continues to work with the Food and Drug Administration to improve product labeling,” Dr. Gruchalla says. “However, while labeling is getting better, peanut allergen-contamination of nonpeanut containing foods is still a possibility.”

Peanut or tree nut allergies affect approximately 3 million Americans – roughly 8 percent of children aged 6 and under and 1 percent to 2 percent of adults – and cause the most severe food-induced allergic reactions, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Approximately 100 Americans, usually children, die annually from food-induced allergic reaction, NIAID officials report.

Dr. Gruchalla recommends that peanut-sensitive holiday revelers avoid homemade snacks and stick to hard candy and well-known treats that don’t list peanut products among the ingredients. Also, do some research before eating off-brand foods or fun-size candy without an ingredient list. Contact the manufacturing company or log on to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Web site at www.foodallergy.org for more peanut information.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

PARENTS: IF TRICK-OR-TREATING SCARES YOUR KIDS, DON’T FORCE IT

Fear can be a thrilling sensation for some kids, especially on Halloween, but parents should not push unwilling children into fear-inducing situations such as trick-or-treating, says Dr. Peter Stavinoha, associate professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“We might think they will have fun, or we might remember having fun ourselves as children; however, it can be detrimental to a child to be placed unnecessarily in a fear situation,” he says. “The child may not have that basic level of trust that everything will be OK. This might seem irrational to adults, but it can quickly turn into a true panic situation for a child.”

If a child is scared to go trick-or-treating, Dr. Stavinoha recommends the following:

A parent should offer to tag along.
Go trick-or-treating before dark and carry a flashlight.
Plan alternative activities, such as movie night at home or a Halloween party.
Above all, don’t force the issue. “If a child fears trick-or-treating, that is really not a big deal,” Dr. Stavinoha says.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

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