Fireworks are an integral part of most of the festivals and other celebrations in India. Globally, India is the second largest producer of fireworks. Among the festivals, Diwali is the major festival for the use of fireworks. On the other hand, this festival can make the doctors and ophthalmologists go haywire due to the dramatic increase in the number of firecracker-related emergencies and eye injuries. These injuries may lead to temporary or permanent disability or visual impairment and cause a financial burden to the family and society.
It may be difficult for parents to avoid their children from burning the crackers. However, the awareness and guidance will help you take the necessary preventive measures during the festive seasons.
Causes of fire injuries
The commonest causes of fire injuries include:
a) Misuse of the fireworks (erratic behaviour) like igniting the crackers while holding them in hand and
b) device failure (unexpected blast of the crackers, flares/fountains where the ground firework may emit spark upwards)
Types of fireworks
Following are some of the types of fireworks:
String gun powder – explosive chemicals/material from cracker that is obtained by tearing the paper wrapper of the crackers
String bombs – high-intensity firecracker that is made by wrapping the chemicals with jute strings/layers of coir
Rockets – an aerial device that zooms upward and bursts e.g. flare/ cone fountains, sparklers, ground spinners, etc.
Studies conducted in India have concluded that firework injuries were seen in males and children. Most commonly injured sites were hands, face, and eyes.
Firework injuries include:
i) Soft tissue burns (flare/fountains, ground spinners, sparklers, gunpowder)
ii) Soft tissue disruption and bony injuries (string bombs, rockets)
iii) Open/closed globe injury – injury to/penetrating cornea and sclera (fountain, bombs)
iv) ocular morbidity.
Most of the injuries can be prevented if you exercise caution. It is better to let children firecrackers under the supervision of their parents/elders.
Following are few tips to make your festivals hassle free.
Precautions before you play with fireworks:
1) Use only fireworks that are marketed legally, with a proper label and instructions.
2) Do not use old or failed or dud fireworks. These may ignite without warning.
3) Do not use the fireworks inside the house.
4) Do not light fireworks in a crowded place.
5) Do not carry fireworks in bare hand/pockets. Carry them in a box.
6) Keep the fireworks in a cool, dry place where your child cannot reach it.
7) Wear a non-flowing, non-synthetic (cotton clothes) while using fireworks. You may also wear long pants, covered shoes, eye and ear protectors.
8) Keep the first aid box containing medicines related to burns, nearby that. Aloe vera can be used as a salve in the case of minor burns.
Safety measures while using fireworks
1) Most of the children play with sparklers. Sparklers can be hot enough to melt the gold. Ensure your children hold the sparklers away from the clothing, face and hair.
2) Keep a bucket of water while you use fireworks.Once the sparklers are burnt, soak them in the water and dispose of them.
3) Maintain a safe distance from the fireworks and never hold them in your hand.
4) Do not allow your children to pick up the pieces of fireworks after they are burnt. There can be chances of an explosion.
5) Never throw fireworks on anybody as they may backfire or go in a wrong direction.
6) Do not use multiple crackers at a time.
7) Do not use crackers/rockets near flammable objects.
8) If you have pets at home, tie them indoors as they may get frightened and stressed out or injured.
9) If you are a viewer of fireworks, be at least 500 meters away.
What to do in case if your child gets injured?
- In a case of burns on any parts of the body, undress the affected area and pour cool (not cold/ice) water on it. Contact a doctor immediately.
In case of eye injuries –
- Do not allow your child to touch/ apply pressure/rub their eyes. It can further damage their eyes.
- Do not wash the eyes with water or apply any ointment. Avoid pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Instead, cut the bottom of a paper cup and place it on the affected eye. Meet the doctor as early as possible to protect your child’s eyesight.
Entertainments are necessary during festivals, but let it not be at the cost of your eyes or life!
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- Fireworks Safety Guidelines. The fireworks alliance. http://fireworksalliance.org/cgi-bin/viewpage.pl?p=safety. Accessed on 23/6/16.
- Fireworks eye safety. American academy of ophthalmology. http://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-fireworks-eye-safety. Accessed on 23/6/16.
- Fireworks safety. Kids health. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html. Accessed on 23/6/16.
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- Patel Rajiva and Mukherjee B. Crash & Burn: Ocular Injuries due to Fireworks. Seminars in Ophthalmology. October 2014. Informa Healthcare USA.