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Beware of unwanted Halloween health haunts

The following story is based on events both real and imagined. Reader discretion is advised.

As the morning light pushed away the final shadows of Halloween, Roger awoke to find himself in a great deal of pain. His jaw throbbed and his eyes were irritated and puffy.

Squinting, he struggled to read the alarm clock through a slimy film covering his pupils. Is it 4 a.m. or 9 a.m.? Rolling over to get a better look, he heard the sound of candy wrappers crunching beneath his body and falling to the floor. He reached down to pick them up and felt something solid and pearl-like among the cellophane. Suddenly the shooting pain in his jaw made a lot more sense.

In his hand was the dental crown Dr. Smith cemented just two years earlier. Then, while staring at the tooth fragment in semi-disbelief, he felt something fall out of his right eye. It was the stylized “zombie” contact lens from his prior night’s Halloween costume. Roger began to piece things together. His sugar-saturated evening was not without consequences, and the only way out of his new reality lay through the twin purgatories of the living known as his dentist’s and optometrist’s waiting rooms.

While probably not the scariest thing you’ll read this Halloween, Roger’s experience is actually one of the more likely horror stories you or a family member are likely to encounter. As costumes get more and more sophisticated, it can be easy to gravitate toward elements such as stylized contact lenses to put your look over the top. Similarly, when trick-or-treating evolves from enjoying a few treats to eating your way through a pillowcase full of caramels, bad things can happen.

Sink your fangs into these four tips

We don’t like to think about it, but sticky and hard candies can do a number on our teeth. To avoid waking up in a nightmare like Roger’s, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Dental and Vision insurance teams recommend the following tips from respected national health organizations. Here are four ways to minimize the damage:

  • Limit sticky and/or chewy candies. Candies that stick to the teeth take longer to get washed away by saliva and can increase the risk for tooth decay. In addition, some of the stickier candies and desserts can loosen or remove fillings, crowns and other dental work.
  • Don’t use your teeth to open candy wrappers. Using your teeth as a pair of scissors creates wear and tear that can cause your teeth to crack, chip and even break.
  • Avoid hard candy and other sweets that might stay in the mouth for a long period of time. The quantity and length of time sugary foods and sweets stay in the mouth plays a major role in tooth decay. If children or adults have candy, the best types to eat are those that dissolve quickly, such as chocolate bars.
  • Just “two” it. We may never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop™, but we do know the right amount of tooth brushing. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends people brush their teeth two times a day for two minutes. During the Halloween season, it may be a good idea to brush your teeth immediately after eating candy, especially candy that’s sticky. The simple habit of regular brushing can make a big difference over time.

Watch out for your eyes

Although they may look cool, it’s important for Halloween participants of all ages to understand that decorative contact lenses can be dangerous. Take these steps to avoid unwanted illness or injury:

  • Get a valid prescription for the contact lenses.Despite their availability on websites and in stores, it’s actually illegal to sell decorative lenses without a prescription in the United States. Protect your eyes by avoiding contact lenses that aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and don’t come from your optometrist.
  • Clean with care.Always follow the eye care provider’s directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the decorative contact lenses. Contact lenses that are not cleaned or disinfected properly may cause pain and can lead to potentially serious infections. Go to a licensed eye care provider if there is any redness or eye pain that does not go away after a short period of time, or if you experience any clouding or a decrease in vision.

Following these guidelines can help ensure your Halloween has far more “treats” than “tricks.” For more information, please visit the American Dental Association, Food and Drug Administration and American Academy of Ophthalmology’s websites.

 

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Nobile is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry whose experience includes time with Rush Prudential Health Plans, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Prior to joining Anthem, Nobile served as the Director of Sales and Account Management for the Midwest region at UniCare, a health benefits company based in Chicago and owned by Anthem’s parent company and also ran UniCare’s Eastern Region with offices.

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