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Image: Halloween costumes
Seth Perlman  /  AP
Scary masks are a Halloween staple, but make sure you can see through the eyeholes to avoid getting hurt. Every year, hospitals and law enforcement officers report injuries ranging from silly to serious, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
msnbc.com
updated 10/29/2010 9:41:43 AM ET 2010-10-29T13:41:43

Attaching an eye patch with super glue could have turned out so much worse.

One 45-year-old man was gluing the final touches for his pirate costume, which included a fake beard and moustache as well as the patch, a couple of Halloweens ago. But he somehow got the adhesive in his hair, and then somehow rubbed his eye and — ouch!

The injury was bad enough to send him to the emergency room but not nearly as serious as other harm that befalls makers and wearers of Halloween costumes, a review of government records finds.

In the past five years, at least 226 people have suffered costume-related injuries, according to reports from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. At least five people died.

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Dangers from dressing up were reported year-round, but the bulk of the sprained ankles, abraded eyeballs and second-degree burns caused by flaming costumes occurred near Halloween, the records showed.

'You think this should be common sense'
Though they range from the silly to the serious, most such injuries occur when people don’t take the time to imagine the consequences of their costumes, said Jo B. Paoletti, an associate professor of American studies and a costume historian at the University of Maryland.

“It’s crazy because you think this should be common sense,” said Paoletti, who has designed stage costumes with safety in mind. “Sometimes, they’re just not thinking.”

Perhaps that’s to be expected in younger costume-wearers, like the 10-year-old girl who stuck a plastic tooth to her real tooth with fingernail glue for Halloween 2004. How was she to know it would take an expensive trip to the dentist to remove the fake fang?

The same can be said for the 15-year-old girl who managed to get her leg tangled in someone else’s Halloween cape in 2008, sending her sprawling — and spraining her knee.

But there’s also the 35-year-old man who wore a mask made out of metal mesh to a Halloween party in 2007, and then was surprised when he suffered a black eye and scratches on his cornea when the mask struck his face.

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And there was the 28-year-old who scratched her cornea when she got glitter in her eye from a princess gown, and the 49-year-old woman wearing a flowing gown who tripped on the hem of her dress in 2008 and sprained her ankle.

“One of the things to think about is how full the costume is, and how much sweep it has,” advised Paoletti. “Things that fit tightly are actually safer than big, flowing princess dresses.”

Admittedly, some costume injuries aren’t anticipated. An 11-year-old boy in McLean, Va., never expected the battery pack that powered his inflatable ostrich costume would malfunction, delivering sharp shocks to his waist last year.

Cotton-ball sheep suit catches fire
And a 28-year-old man in Lewiston, Maine, didn’t realize that constructing a sheep costume out of cotton balls could be a fire hazard. He was hospitalized after he brushed against someone holding a cigarette and the costume burst into flames.

The solution, said Paoletti, is to take a cue from the professionals and conduct a dress rehearsal in your costume. Is it constructed from anything hazardous? Can you walk and drive in it? Can you see?

“Try it on in advance,” she suggested, noting that the advice applies to adults as well as children. “Understand that, yeah, it’s a lot of fun, but we need to be careful.”

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