Safe Trick-or-Treating: Tips from the NJ Poison Center

Posted on October 30, 2016

A 3 year old boy is out trick-or-treating with his parents and big sister when he bites into a glow stick, spilling the liquid inside onto his mouth, face, and hands. His mother calls the NJ Poison Center for help. “Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year for the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists answering calls for help on our 24 hour Poison Help line,” said Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of the state’s poison center. “We get calls about many things – from glow sticks to bug bites to belly aches.”

A common exposure during Halloween is the accidental ingestion of glow stick liquid. The liquid inside these glowing items is usually a clear, oily, colorless liquid. It is not toxic but can cause irritation to any part of the body that it comes into contact with, including the eyes, skin and mouth. “Parents often call 9-1-1 or spend hours in the emergency room when they could have simply called our poison experts for immediate medical advice, and stayed home” said Dr. Calello. Although such a situation rarely produces further problems, getting the liquid in the eye can be irritating and painful. This could possibly result in damage to the cornea if not washed out properly.

Another situation which causes a lot of calls are stomach aches/pains. “Parents may be concerned that symptoms are due to altered/tainted candy, when in fact it is usually just eating too much regular candy,” said Bruce Ruck, PharmD, DABT, Managing Director of the NJ Poison Center. “Keeping a watchful eye for signs of tampering or contamination is always important at Halloween.” Signs of tampering may include opened wrappers, wrapping which doesn’t match the candy inside, misspelling on the labels, or a strange appearance or odor of the candy itself.

The NJ Poison Center offers these additional safety tips for a safe and healthy Halloween.

• Children should be accompanied by an adult when “trick or treating.”

• Go only to homes of people you know.

• Avoid homemade treats – there is always a risk of food poisoning.

• Teach your child that medicine is not candy. Lock up all medications.

• Use non-toxic makeup to paint faces and body parts. Test on a small area of skin to be sure it will not cause an allergic reaction.

• Handle dry ice with care because it can cause significant damage (burns) if ingested or touches the skin. Store it safely in an insulated container. Always use protective clothing such as appropriate gloves when handling dry ice.

• Any item containing alcohol should be kept out of reach of children and pets. This includes opened bottles, unfinished beverage cups, etc.

• Make sure any items that can cause choking, such as hard candy, are given only to children school-aged or older. Throw out candy wrappers before your young children or pets swallow them and choke.

• Children should not give treats to pets; chocolates and raisins can be poisonous to animals.

Mishaps can occur at any time. Do not take chances by waiting until symptoms happen. While family members and internet searches may offer some answers, these are not the best ways to get immediate help. If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc. call 911 immediately, otherwise call the NJ Poison Center at 1-(800)-222-1222.

Calling the poison center is always the fastest way to get the medical help or information you need to prevent further injury. Time is important in such situations so program the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) as a contact in your mobile phone and post it somewhere in your home, like on your refrigerator or near your home phone.

Help is available to NJ residents anytime day or night, even on weekends and holidays. Remember, services are fast, free, confidential, and multilingual. Call 800-222-1222, chat<>, or text<>; the hearing impaired may also use their TTY and call 973-926-8008.
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As New Jersey’s only poison control center, the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System provides information on poison prevention and treatments. Chartered in 1983, NJPIES provides free consultation through telephone hot line services and the Web. Medical professionals such as physicians, registered nurses and pharmacists offer confidential advice regarding poison emergencies and provide information on poison prevention, drugs, food poisoning, animal bites and more. These specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

New Jersey residents seeking immediate information about treating poison emergencies, and those with any drug information questions, should call the toll-free hot line, 800-222-1222, any time. The hearing impaired may call 973-926-8008. For more information, visit<> or call 973-972-9280.