Precautions For A Safe Diwali
No one wants mishaps during Diwali festivities. So, be extra cautious when it comes to your child's safety, especially while handling fireworks and diyas. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
By Dr Anuja Pethe
Diwali is easily the most popular festival in India and is celebrated with much enthusiasm. It is characterised by bright lights, earthen lamps, firecrackers, rangolis, new clothes, and of course, lots of sweets! But parents have to keep in mind that it is also the season to be extra careful about their children's health. Due to a high possibility of accidents and infections, it is important to be aware of the dangers and also, be prepared to tackle them.
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Here are some basic precautions to take for ensuring safety and good health, and some tips on how to tackle mishaps that may occur despite your best efforts to stay safe during Diwali.
1. Factoring safety into fireworks
- Always buy firecrackers from a licensed seller.
- Read all the instructions carefully before use.
- Store firecrackers safely out of reach of your children and away from flammable objects.
- Wear well-fitting cotton clothes and comfortable, closed footwear while lighting fireworks. Also, do not wear high heels or uncomfortable shoes.
- Always supervise children while handling fireworks.
- Make sure children use long sparklers or long incense sticks to light firecrackers.
- Encourage the use of simple fireworks such as ‘flower pots’ and ‘chakras’. Avoid big, noisy firecrackers, especially when there are young children present.
- Always light firecrackers in an open, flat area. There should be no obstructions, trees or overhead wires.
- Never set off firecrackers on the road or in a bustling area where there may be many passers-by.
- Discard spent fireworks in a bucket of sand or water. Smouldering remnants or sharp parts can cause accidents if they are left lying around on the open ground.
2. Dealing with burns and injuries
- Keep a bucket full of sand and a thick blanket handy while lighting firecrackers.
- In case of accidental burns, immediately hold the burnt area under clean running tap water. Apply antiseptic cream to the affected area. Do not rupture blisters, if any, as they help protect the raw wound and promote healing. Contact your doctor for further treatment.
- In case of large burns, rush the patient to the hospital. Identify the nearest hospital and doctor beforehand so as to facilitate rapid action.
3. Handling eye irritations and injuries
- Be conscious that bursting of firecrackers can cause eye injuries. Smoke can cause eye irritation, redness and watering. Children may rub their eyes with contaminated hands and aggravate the eye problem.
- In case of irritation or injury, wash the eye immediately with plenty of plain water. Use approved lubricating eye drops. Contact your doctor for further treatment or go to the hospital.
Point of caution: It is generally advised to stay away from firecrackers as they are not considered safe and can cause a pollution nightmare. But, if your child is insisting on them, ensure you are strictly following the requisite safety norms before allowing them to play with firecrackers.
4. Responding to anxiety, irritability, headaches and hearing problems
Noise pollution increases during Diwali. Loud noise can damage the eardrums and cause hearing problems. Newborns are especially vulnerable. Continuous loud noise can cause irritability, anxiety and headaches in both children and adults. Small children tend to become cranky and unmanageable.
- Keep babies and small children away from loud noise.
- Soothe small children by hugging them close and reassuring them.
- Give your children plenty of liquids, such as plain water, soup.
5. Tackling skin rashes and allergies
Chemicals in fireworks, artificial ubtan powder (an ayurvedic face-pack mix made using besan (gram flour), manjistha (Rubia cordifolia), haridra (turmeric), chandan (sandalwood), and scented oils (used in bathing rituals) can cause skin allergies and rashes, especially in children. Store-bought sweetmeats which may have artificial colours, flavours and preservatives can also cause allergies in children.
- In case of skin rashes, stop using the suspect product immediately.
- Apply soothing lotions containing Calamine and Aloe Vera to the affected areas.
- You may also need to give the patient anti-allergy medication (after consulting your doctor).
- Take the child to the hospital immediately if there are extensive rashes, swelling of lips and/or breathing difficulty. These are signs of severe allergy which need to be treated urgently.
6. Caring for respiratory ailments
All respiratory complaints such as cough, cold and asthma aggravate during Diwali due to the high volume of pollutants in the air.
- It is best to avoid smoky areas. Stay indoors, especially if the child is prone to frequent coughs and wheezing.
- If the child has been prescribed the use of an inhaler, be sure that doses are not missed. In some cases, the dose may need to be adjusted. This can be done after consulting your doctor.
- Rescue inhalers (for quick relief) may be needed in some cases. Consult your doctor and keep them handy. They can be used as and when required.
- Contact your doctor promptly if the child is breathless, irritable or dull.
7. Coping with indigestion and stomach upsets
Digestion problems are frequently seen during the festive season due to over-indulgence in sweets and rich food. This may manifest as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating or heartburn.
- Keep appropriate anti-vomiting and other medications handy and administer them as advised by your doctor.
- You may also use simple home remedies such as the juice of lemon and ginger or fennel-infused water.
- Give the ill child simple, bland, home-cooked foods such as porridge and curd rice, and plenty of liquids. Let her drink ORS (Oral Rehydration Salt) solutions to prevent dehydration.
8. Treating food poisoning and loose motion
Food poisoning may occur due to contaminated food. The manifestations of the problem are severe in smaller children. They can get dehydrated very quickly.
- To prevent dehydration, continuously give Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) that can be either made at home or bought from the store. To make ORS at home, take a glass of water and dissolve a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt in it.
- If the child is suffering from loose motion, modify the diet. Give him simple rice and curd, applesauce and pomegranate juice.
- Consult your doctor immediately if the child is dull and lethargic, and passing low amounts of urine.
I hope these tips will help you take extra care of your children during this festive time, and the whole family gets to enjoy the season of lights to its fullest. Wish you all a very happy, prosperous, safe and healthy Diwali!
Dr Anuja Pethe is a Consultant Paediatrician at a leading hospital in Mumbai.
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