Diwali being the festival of lights and firecrackers, it’s hard for children to resist bursting them or to stay away from them. Monitoring children while they burst crackers is simply not enough to prevent Diwali firework injuries.
When a 6-year-old boy Praveen from Hyderabad who was being monitored by his 60-year-old grandfather, tried to reignite a flowerpot, sustained severe burn injuries and suffered partial vision loss after it suddenly burst on his face in November 2022. His grandfather who was assisting him also sustained burn injuries on his legs after his pants were caught on fire.
It is crucial for parents to know the safe practices and encourage children to follow the same, which includes not reigniting the crackers.
Common firework injuries during Diwali
Dr Vishwa Reddy, associate professor, and incharge – Emergency Medicine Department, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad who treated Praveen adds that apart from ocular injuries, hand, finger, and feet injuries are commonly seen in the emergency rooms during the festival time.
Choice of the clothes worn while burning crackers play a crucial role. “Wearing nylon or linen is the worst choice as it may easily catch fire while cotton can be a safe option. This is not only for those who burst crackers but also for the family and bystanders during the festival time to avoid any fire accidents,” says Dr B L Sujatha Rathod, Directorate of Medical Education, Karnataka and former director of Minto Ophthalmic hospital, Bangalore.
According to doctors, the sparks from fire crackers can easily enter eyes, nose and ears and can cause injury in case of sudden burst. “The most common mistake that people make is reigniting a firecracker which often results in sudden bursts of firecrackers causing injuries,” says Dr Reddy, who is a member of Association of Emergency Physicians of India,
Dr Rathod, an ophthalmologist explains that in ocular injuries there are two types:
- Simple injuries: Leads to minor structural changes and will not affect the eye-sight and can heal faster with treatment. This can be superficial burns, hemorrhage inside the eye or a foreign body in the eye.
- Grievous injuries: Results with structural disorganization along with partial or complete vision loss that may be irreversible
“Over 73% of cracker injuries are grievous in nature especially among children,” says Dr Rathod.
Dr Rathod further explains that the injuries depend on various aspects such as the type of cracker, the maintained distance from the cracker, and the chemicals in it. Facing the cracker upfront can lead to severe injury, she adds, as chemicals can directly enter the eyes causing internal burns. That’s how a bystander or a passerby also becomes vulnerable for a cracker injury.
How to prevent Diwali injuries
Ensure that you burn the crackers in an open place where there are no vehicles as the petrol or diesel inside them may lead to or increase the risk of a massive fire accident, says Dr Reddy. “People tend to keep all the firecrackers together near to a fire source (candle or diya) or outside the house close to where they burst the crackers which should be avoided. A small spark is enough to create a huge fire accident,” she said, adding that it’s safe to keep the crackers away from the fire hazards at home such as gas cylinders.
It’s a common practice for people to store the left-over crackers from the previous year and burst them the next year which needs to be avoided as these crackers come with an expiry date even if it’s not mentioned on the label, says Dr Rathod. “Left-over and poor-quality crackers often lead to sudden bursts causing injuries affecting not just the person bursting it but also the bystanders,” she cautioned.
Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
Dr Rathod added that it’s important for the person whether a child or an adult to wear protective eyeglasses to safeguard their eyes.
First aid for cracker injury
For any superficial burn injury on hands or feet, one can run it under tap water to cool the area to wash off the chemicals, says Dr Reddy. “If the injury is in the eyes, do not rub them, do not splash water, or apply anything. Cover the eye with a clean cloth and rush to the hospital. Any injury on the face too needs immediate attention and the person needs to be brought to the hospital,” she said. In rare cases, the person may fall unconscious due to the shock or inhalation of toxic gases and needs to be taken to the hospital without delay to provide a needy oxygen supply.
Firework injuries are commonly seen during Diwali festival and it’s important to take precautionary measures before bursting the crackers and follow safety measures. Apart from ocular injuries, burn injuries on hands, feet, and face are commonly seen during the festival season.