The chemicals that add sparkle and colour to firecrackers can hurt your health in insidious ways. Here’s how to deal with some of the more common problems.
Throat, eye and skin irritation
Aluminum and arsenic sulfide that create colourful sparkles cause skin irritation, with some people, especially young children, developing red rashes on the skin on contact with the chemical. Fumes from burning these may also cause the eyes to turn red and itchy, and the throat to turn scratchy and sore.
What to do: Wear full-sleeved cotton clothes to protect skin from contact allergy. If red, itchy rashes appear, wash the skin with water and apply calamine lotion. If skin irritation persists, pop a cetirizine.
Do not rub itchy eyes, wash them by splashing them with clean water. A warm concoction of cardamom, cloves, black pepper and basil with honey and lemon can soothe sore throats.
Breathlessness/ tightness in the chest
Incessant coughing may be a sign of throat irritation, but coupled with breathing difficulty, it can be alarming.
What to do: Move away from smoggy surroundings and sit in a room with the doors and windows shut and the air-conditioning on. Breathing problems in people with asthma can aggravate suddenly, so keep an inhaler or nebuliser at hand to dilate your airways. Rush to a hospital if your don’t feel better after inhalation.
Headache or dizziness
The noise and air pollutants can trigger headache dizziness, especially in your children and pregnant women.
What to do: Pop a paracetamol to treat the headache. Make sure you remember to drink water and other fluids like lemon juice, coconut water or soups to stay hydrated. If the headache and dizziness is accompanied with vomiting, visit a doctor.
Asthma or lung diseases
An asthma attack that cannot be controlled using rescue medicines is a cause of concern. Visit a doctor if symptoms do not go away even after taking a couple of puffs of rescue medicines.
What to do: People with a history of lung diseases and respiratory allergies should avoid stepping out of home around Diwali.
If it cannot be avoided, they should use a N95 face mask, which filters out at least 95% of airborne particles. A normal surgical mask is of no use as pollutants can pass through it. It is important to keep inhalers handy. Regular use of steroidal control drugs is advisable.
If the skin hasn’t blistered and the burned area is not more than 4-5 cm, it can be treated at home. If the burn is in a sensitive area, like the face, visit a doctor to avoid scarring.
What to do: Hold the burn under running water for 15-20 minutes as it reduces the burning sensation. Don’t use ice as it may damage the skin further. Apply an antibiotic ointment; not burnol or toothpaste as they don’t allow wounds to breathe. Then, cover the wound with medicated sofratulle gauze. Do not use cotton as it tends to stick to the skin.