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Keep your ghouls and goblins safe

Zombies can’t be their scariest if they have to itch at their makeup. Witches can’t fly their brooms if they can’t see. And it’s hard to say “trick-or-treat” if you have to do it between sneezes. Having a scary costume shouldn’t be scary for your health. But there are some costumes and accessories that can trigger adverse reactions like allergies, skin irritation and eye damage.

“Because Halloween only comes once a year, it makes sense to look for less expensive costumes and makeup,” said Geisinger pediatrician Lisa Coroniti, MD. “But parents need to be on the lookout for cheap costumes and accessories that can be harmful. These supplies are often made overseas in countries with fewer regulations. As a result, hazardous things can slip through the cracks and end up at your local Halloween store—like products containing lead or formaldehyde. It’s important to be careful while buying Halloween items; make sure to test all products on a small patch of skin prior to Halloween to see if there are any reactions.”

Here are some of the main things you should watch out for this Halloween:

Makeup
While makeup is safer than masks, which can obstruct vision, it’s important to test any product before using it. There have been cases of cheap Halloween makeup containing formaldehyde, lead and other unsafe chemicals, causing rashes and irritation.

“It’s very important to test any sort of topical product before using it,” said Dr. Coroniti. “If you get makeup from a brand you trust, there is a lower risk of reaction. Make sure to test the makeup on a discreet but sensitive part of the skin, such as on the underside of your arm. If you experience any kind of itching, burning or rash, discontinue the product and try to find something else with different ingredients.”

If you really need special makeup that isn’t available from major makeup brands, try theater makeup. This makeup has to be tested by the FDA and is approved for long periods of wear. No matter what, you should still test it on a small patch of skin before Halloween. The best place to test is on the underside of the arm or on the neck.

Other makeup accessories, such as prosthetics used to make fake scars, can contain latex. Be aware of latex with makeup, masks and other products if you have a latex allergy.

Always make sure to use proper adhesives when using products like prosthetics or fake eyelashes. Using the wrong glue can lead to skin damage or other undesired consequences. 

Fake blood can contain chemicals that interact with certain petroleum bases in makeup and can cause skin irritation. Instead of buying fake blood, opt to make some yourself with corn syrup.

Colored contacts
Even when it’s not Halloween, colored contact lenses are popular for costumes. But when these contacts are not bought from trusted professionals, they could be bad for your vision.

“There are cases of colored contacts doing serious damage to people’s vision—even after just one use,” said Dr. Coroniti. “Contacts bought from non-professional sources like street vendors or novelty shops may be below safety standards. People who have used colored contacts have experienced eye infections, scratches on the eye, blurred vision and even blindness. If you want to get colored contacts, talk to a doctor or optometrist.”

Costumes
The last thing you may think of having an allergic reaction to is your costume. But if your costume or accessories contain certain ingredients, you may be in for a long night.

Just like some prosthetics you might glue to your skin, other parts of your costume, such as masks, may contain latex.

Another thing that can be found in jewelry and accessories is metal. Certain metals, such as nickel or cobalt, can cause allergic reactions in some people—causing bumps, rashes and itching.

“If you’re removing an old costume or accessory from storage, be sure to clean it first,” said Dr. Coroniti. “For people with asthma or allergies to dust, the accumulated dust on the costume could cause them to have a reaction.”

Most of these potential issues are not severe, but it’s best to buy products that you trust and testing them on small patches of skin beforehand.

“In addition to following these safety tips, make sure your costume is flame-retardant and has reflective tape,” said Dr. Coroniti. “And don’t forget your flashlight before heading out.”

Dr. Lisa Coroniti is a pediatrician at Geisinger Pediatrics in Forty Fort. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401 or book online.

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