November 3, 2010 (Coal Geology) Diwali/Kali Puja is a festival of light, fun, fireworks and feasting. It is also the season that we fear – because of burns. Dr M M Ghosh, Consultant Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon of Columbia Asia Hospital, tells IBNS what preventions one should take to avoid burns this Diwali.
Every year, thousands of accidents happen all over the country on the days of Diwali festivities. The sad part of this story is that almost all these accidents are, or should be, preventable.
So let us start by asking how burns happen during a firework festival.
The first thing to remember is that fireworks in India are mostly made in highly unregulated and unsupervised manufactories. Naturally, therefore, they often burn or explode in unexpected ways.
Next, letting off fireworks on Diwali night is something that we all, especially children, love to do – unlike in the West where fireworks are generally set off by trained pyrotechicians. Finally, we do not usually keep emergency supplies available where accidents are likely.
What are the usual ways in which people get injured on Diwali night?
Well, a common accident is the explosion of a firework, such as a “Rang Mashal” or a “Tubri”, that is expected to burn continuously, rather than explode. Fireworks that rotate or leap around are also potential fire hazards. Rockets and other similar fireworks can directly land upon and injure people. Clothing, decorations and hangings can catch fire.
Prevention of burns starts with actually thinking about the possibility of injuries. Some rules should be laid down – fireworks must not be let off by small children. All fireworks should be lit in open, well ventilated areas. Cotton clothing is a must – no synthetic materials should be worn on Diwali night.
No one letting off fireworks should be intoxicated in any way. Teach children to light fireworks with lighted sticks – traditional jute sticks are excellent. Prepare for emergencies by keeping buckets of sand and water handy in case of an accident, especially if there is a Diwali party with several people.
What if an accident happens?
The first thing is not to panic. Get children out of the way. Take off, or rip off all burning clothing. Pour cold water over the burned area as soon as possible, and keep pouring cold water for at least an hour, or until medical help and advice becomes available.
Get the burned person out of closed spaces into the open air. The burned area may be covered with a clean wet cloth, or wet newspaper. Large burns are an emergency – call for medical help or an ambulance immediately.
Staying safe and unhurt on Diwali keeps the festival pleasant and joyous for all concerned.