The festival of lights, Deepavali, brings fun, joy and togetherness. Children and youth eagerly look forward for the arrival of the festival. In fact, they begin bursting of crackers well before the festival. Though Diwali celebrations mean lots of fun and enjoyment, one needs to be extra careful during this festival of lights and crackers. Unfortunately, improper handling and playing with fireworks mar the celebrations every year. With incidents of skin burns, eye injuries and even loss of eye-sight being reported every year, it is imperative to take precautions.

S. Vasudevan, Vice-president, Planning and Communications, ALERT, a non-governmental organisation training volunteers in Emergency Medical Care, Chennai, suggests some safety tips for a happy and safe Deepavali.

Do’s: An adult should always supervise the use of fireworks by children. Check the area before igniting fireworks to ensure that all inflammable and combustible materials are removed. Follow all safety precautions issued with the fireworks. Use an incense stick to ignite fireworks. They provide a greater and safer distance between your hands and the fireworks. Keep two buckets full of water handy. Use fireworks only outdoors. Light only one firework at a time. Firecrackers, bombs and flowerpots should not be lighted holding them. It is always safer to light them from the side without bending over them. Move away quickly before they burst. Hold lighted sparklers away from the body. Flying fireworks - rockets, missiles, etc. - should always be lighted in open grounds pointing straight up. Wear close-fitting clothes of thick material instead of loose or flowing garments. Consult an ophthalmologist immediately in case of eye injuries.

Don'ts: Never give fireworks to small children. Never ignite fireworks while holding them. Put them down, then ignite them and walk away. Do not ignite fireworks inside a metal or a glass container. Ignite aerial fireworks in an open air space. Never re-light a firework which has not burnt properly. Do not throw fireworks at other people. Do not carry fireworks in your pocket. Ensure that your children don't engage in dangerous pranks such as throwing lighted crackers or sparklers at others, or try to make fireworks themselves.

Other tips

Keep your mobile phones handy in case of emergency. After igniting the fireworks, wash your hands with soap and water. In case of burn injuries, immerse the burnt area under running or cold water until the burns or pain subsides. Do not apply ointment, oil, cooking ghee and butter on the burnt area as it increases the risk of infections. If a person catches fire, roll the person down. Rolling will put out most of the flames. Do not pull of the clothing or pour cold water, because the clothing often melts into the skin. You will pull off large areas of skin and make the person more at risk for shock and infection. If the person is not breathing and responsive, immediately perform Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. (It is an emergency procedure which is performed in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person in cardiac arrest). Following these precautions can go a long way in ensuring a safe Diwali. In case of medical emergencies, dial 108.

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