Union Democrat staff

There are many tricks to enjoying a safe Halloween.

Costumes present the most hazards to children, said Kathy Amos, Tuolumne County director of Public Health Nursing. "They need to be flame retardant."

Most store-bought costumes are made of synthetic materials which burn or melt easily. These are especially dangerous because of the fire hazard posed by jack-o-lanterns, she warned.

The Public Health Department encourages people not to place jack-o-lanterns near walkways where children could come in contact with them.

"Preferably people wouldn't use candles but use an artificial form of light," Amos said.

Other decorations like dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are also highly flammable. They should be kept away from open flames and heat sources including light bulbs and heaters, according to the Cal Fire website.

Parents should outfit their children in properly fitting masks and costumes so children don't get hurt.

"Children are most often injured by trips and falls in the streets" she said.

Drivers and pedestrians need to be vigilant.

"Only stay on sidewalks and cross the street at corners and crosswalks" Amos said.

Trick-or-treating after dark or in secluded areas also pose dangers to Halloween revelers.

If you do go out after dark, enhance your visibility. Bring a flashlight, carry glow sticks and try to wear brightly colored or reflective clothing or adhere reflective tape to costumes, recommended Calaveras County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Hewitt.

He also advised people to travel in groups, preferably with at least one adult and not just older siblings or teenagers as chaperones.

If parents aren't going out with their children, have them check in and plan their routes in advance. "Know what neighborhood your kids are going to," Hewitt said.

Calaveras County won't have additional patrol staff, but Sheriff's volunteers will patrol more popular areas, including Murphys and Copperopolis, Hewitt said.

Volunteers may even block traffic for trick-or-treaters in some areas.

Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Jeff Wilson recommended trick-or-treating in smaller housing developments or subdivisions rather than rural areas and thoroughfares with greater traffic.

"We patrol the housing subdivisions in the county that are secluded from the highways and we make circular patterns all night long … it's usually pretty fun for everybody and it's pretty safe."

While trick-or-treating, kids should only visit well-lit houses and stand outside doorways to receive their treats.

"Don't go into a stranger's house," Hewitt said.

Officials recommend not eating any candy until it can be looked over carefully.

"Get rid of anything that isn't wrapped in a factory wrapper - that may have been unwrapped or looks suspicious. Kids usually get too much candy anyway, so it won't hurt anybody," Wilson said.

Overindulgence on Halloween goodies can lead to illness, Amos said.

Parents need to limit the amount of candy children consume, particularly before bedtime.

"Most of all we want them to go out and have fun and be safe," Amos said.