Warning: This Halloween prop can have scary consequences
No haunted house Halloween party is truly complete without some atmospheric fog creeping past your ghoulish guests or boiling out of your punch bowl onto your horrific hors d’oeuvres.
This phantasmic fog can add just the right finishing touch to your Halloween festivities. But, without proper precautions, the production of this sinister smog could have some scary consequences.
Typically, the fog effect is created by dry ice, the frozen form of carbon dioxide. This is the same gas found in soft drink bubbles.
Even though dry ice can be purchased at a party supply store, it must be handled with caution because of its extremely cold temperature (-110º F or -78º C). Dry ice does not melt into a liquid, but instead goes directly from a solid state to a gas state through a process called sublimation.
Dr. Brian Oostman, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Oswego, Ill., and an avowed Halloween enthusiast, has some recommended dos and don’ts for those who are looking to add some dry ice ambiance to their Halloween get-together:
- Wear protective clothing when handling dry ice to prevent frostbite. Leather gloves will help keep your hands from cold injury.
- Get plenty of fresh air to prevent breathing in too much carbon dioxide. If your lips or fingers start to turn blue or you feel drowsy, nauseous or develop a headache, get away from the dry ice and find some well-ventilated space.
- Store dry ice in an insulated container. This will slow the rate at which the dry ice becomes a gas.
- Place a few small pieces of dry ice in a small bowl with hot water on top of your punch, instead of directly in the punch bowl. Direct contact with dry ice may result in throat burning. This indirect method will protect your guests and still keep your beverage looking appropriately spooky.
- Store dry ice in a freezer, as its extreme temperature can cause the unit’s thermostat to turn off.
- Store ice in an unventilated room or area. This can lower the concentration of oxygen, which may pose health risks for guests with heart problems or history of strokes.
- Lower your car windows when transporting the dry ice. Make sure fresh air is circulating through your vehicle.
If there is a handling mishap, skin burns from dry ice should be handled in the same manner as skin burns from heat.
“You’ll want to contact your physician if you start to see blisters on your skin,” says Dr. Oostman. “You may need an antibiotic ointment and bandages to prevent any infection and to protect the area from further damage.”
Dr. Oostman recommends that if people have any questions or concerns, they can always contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. And, he wishes everyone a safe, happy Halloween.
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About the Author
Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is the director of public affairs and marketing at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.