Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year for doctors, nurses and pharmacists manning the New Jersey Poison Center 24-Hour Help Line (800-222-1222).

Trick-or-treaters. (Purestock, ThinkStock)

Calls usually start coming in the a day or two before and continue several days after Halloween, according to Dr. Bruce Ruck, managing director of the poison center.

Accidental ingestion of broken or bitten glow sticks' liquid is common during trick-or-treating.

"The main problem with the glow sticks is irritation," said Ruck. He added, although the liquid usually is not toxic, coming in contact with the skin or getting in a child's eyes or mouth can cause issues. "Some people can be allergic to the liquids, which could cause an allergic-like reaction."

Flashlights with flat, button batteries should be closed

"Children can actually eat those by accident. We want to make sure they don't get into candy bags by accident," he said. A flashlight in a bag can open up ... and a child might scoop up the battery with a handful of candy, Ruck said.

And there's simply too much of a good thing.

Parents call the help line after children eat too many treats, and start experiencing stomach pains and aches, Ruck said. But those calls rarely turn out to actually be about tainted candy.

"Most of the time it's nothing where somebody was really trying to harm someone. It's very often just a wrapping opened up, or the color was not what they normally expect. But if it doesn't look good, if it doesn't smell good, just throw it out. Why bother taking a chance? That's our philosophy," Ruck said.

The NJ Poison Center suggests not eating homemade treats handed out on Halloween, unless they're from very close personal friends or relative.

"People have allergies these days, so something in one person's home could be cooked or made with an allergen, peanuts or something, that could cause an allergy in someone, so you want to avoid that. And just to be on the safe side, you don't want to eat something that somebody else made if you don't know who they are,"  Ruck said.

Be wary of Halloween makeup for costumes, which Ruck noted tends to be cheap and available. In the past, some has been found to contain lead. He cautioned against using any type of makeup you're not familiar with, or that hasn't been tested on a small area of the child's hand or arm first.

"You don't want to start putting something on the face for the very first time and have a full-blown allergic reaction," Ruck said. "Make sure you wash your hands and the child's hands very well. Keep it away from the mouth, the nose, the eyes, in case there's any lead in it — again this stuff is not supposed to be sold with lead, but we know it gets on the market."

The NJ Poison Center also fields a number of calls from pet owners about animals getting into the Halloween candy.

"Different animals are sensitive to different things, especially chocolate. Dogs can die from chocolate if they eat too much of it," Ruck said. "Nothing that your vet does not approve of should be given to the dog."

In an emergency, parents sometimes aren't sure whether to call 911 or the help line.

"If somebody is bleeding profusely, if somebody is not breathing, if somebody cannot be woken up, they're unconscious or they're seizing, call 911," Ruck said. "If you have a question that your child may have taken something or did take something and you need to find out what to do about it, but the child is not choking, the child is not bleeding, the child is breathing, then give us the call, and we can usually, very often, prevent an unnecessary emergency room trip."

Ruck suggested everyone keep the NJ Poison Control Helpline number handy and program it into their cell phones: 1-800-222-1222.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.


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