Each year, over 1,000 people suffer injuries due to fireworks during the 4-week period around November 5th. About 60% of these accidents occur at home or at private parties and about 400 usually involve children under the age of 13. *
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is by going to an organised display. If you are going to use them at home instead, ensure you have enough space both for them to be set off safely and for people to stand far enough away. Verify that the fireworks you buy conform to British Standard (BS 7114; 1998) and that they are suitable for your garden.
If you are hosting a firework display, however small, you should ensure there is an appropriately stocked first aid kit close by and accessible in case of accidents. It is also sensible to have a bucket of sand available, plenty of water, a fire blanket and a bottle of sterile saline to irrigate eyes.
Always follow the Fireworks Code and never allow a child to handle or light a firework.
Sparklers are seen as safe and manageable, but they can get up to six times as hot as a pan of cooking oil or as hot as a welder’s torch, so are able to cause serious damage. They are not suitable for children under five.
Sparklers should be lit one at a time and you should always wear gloves when using them.
Children with sparklers should always be supervised and they should stand still while using them, away from other people.
You should not wear loose clothing or scarves while burning sparklers as these can catch alight.
A minor burn is red and painful and sometimes results in a blister. These are common and it is essential to know how to treat them, they can happen easily; for instance when a child picks up a used sparkler which hasn’t cooled down yet.
- If a child is burnt and the area is blistered, or the area is larger than the size of the casualty’s palm, you should phone for an ambulance.
- Hold the affected area under cold, running water for at least 10 minutes
- Special care should be taken if the burn is on a young child or an elderly person. All deep burns of any size will require urgent hospital treatment.
- Once the burn has been cooled for at least 10 minutes, the burn can be covered with cling film, a burns dressing or a hand can be inserted into a sterile plastic bag. All burns should be assessed by medical professionals.
Clothing on fire
Remember these four key things: stop, drop, wrap and roll.
- Stop the casualty panicking or running – any movement or breeze will fan the flames
- Drop the casualty to the ground and wrap them in a blanket, coat, or rug. Ensure they are made from inflammable fabrics such as wool
- Roll the casualty along the ground until the flames have been smothered.
If clothing has caught on fire it is more than likely that the burn will be severe. A severe burn is deep and may not hurt as much as a minor one due to damaged nerve endings.
- Instruct a helper to dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance.
- Start cooling the burn immediately under cool running water. Use a shower or hose if the burns are large. Keep cooling the burn while waiting for professional help to arrive. The area should be cooled for at least 10 minutes. Ensure you are cooling the burn and not the casualty, keep areas that are not burnt as warm and dry as possible to try and avoid the casualty going into shock.
- Make the casualty as comfortable as possible, ideally lie them down and elevate their legs, again to reduce the risk of clinical shock.
- Whilst cooling, remove any constricting items (the area may swell) such as jewellery or clothing from the affected area unless they are stuck to the burn. Wear sterile disposable gloves if they are available.
With all burns, never:
- Touch the burn
- Use lotions, ointments and creams
- Use adhesive dressings
- Puncture blisters
Sprains and strains
It is easy to sprain or strain something by falling or tripping over in the dark. There may be pain and tenderness with swelling and difficulty moving the injured area.
- Advise the casualty to sit or lie down. Support the injured limb in a comfortable position
- Apply an ice pack to reduce the pain and swelling
- Apply comfortable support to the injury by surrounding the area with a thick layer of padding, such as cotton wool, and secure with a bandage
- Raise the injured part to minimise bruising
- If the pain is severe or you are worried send the casualty to hospital, otherwise advise them to rest.
Sparks from fireworks and bonfires can land in eyes and be extremely painful. In the case of an eye injury open the casualty’s eye and look carefully for any embedded object. If there is anything lodged in the eye, cover both eyes and phone for an ambulance. If you can see an object moving freely in the eye, have a sterile eye wash and gently irrigate the eye to remove it. Seek medical advice if the casualty is still in pain or discomfort.
Looking After Your Pets
According to the RSPCA, 45% of dogs display signs of fear at the sound of fireworks and cats and other animals find this time of year extremely distressing too. It is particularly important to keep your pet safe and happy during this potentially stressful season; ignoring their fear could result in negative incidents such as aggressive defensive behaviour or even a pet running away.
There are simple steps you can take to minimise the trauma your pet goes through:
- Do not take your pet to a fireworks display
- Keep your pet indoors in the evening (walk dogs during the day)
- Try to behave as normally as possible, dogs in particular, will pick up on your anxiety and changes in routine
- Feed your pet before fireworks start, as once they do your pet may be too unsettled to eat
- Make sure there is somewhere your pet can hide if they want to e.g. under furniture or in a cupboard (this is particularly important for cats). Do not try and coax pets out of hiding places as this will make them more stressed.
- Close all windows and curtains and play music to muffle the sounds of fireworks and to minimise sudden flashes of light
- Have the TV or radio on to distract your pet
- Be sensitive to your pet’s needs. Comfort your pet if it helps them to relax, or leave them alone if they withdraw. Ensure they are safe and are not likely to hurt themselves.
- Never be cross with your pet while it is scared
- If your pet lives outside (e.g. rabbits or Guinea pigs), either bring the cage inside into a quiet room, a shed or garage, or partly cover the cage with blankets to muffle loud noises. Ensure the animals can still see out. Add extra bedding to the cage so the animals have something to burrow into
- Make sure your pet is in a safe, secure environment which it won’t be able to escape from – block off cat flaps, shut dogs in rooms before opening the front door, secure all cages etc.
It is strongly advised that parents and pet owners attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.
*based on 1994 statistics
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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.