Diwali is that time of the year when minor injuries are inevitable. We spoke with Dr Anup Dhir, Senior Consultant Cosmetic Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, to know about the precautions, first-aid and treatment of burns. Additionally, he has launched a 24-hour public service Diwali helpline number that will be functional between November 10 and November 17. The aim is to provide immediate consultancy and emergency aid for injuries, wounds, burns and such hazards.
“In spite of legislations, the number of patients who suffer firecracker-related injuries in the NCR has been increasing steadily. Eighty percent of the victims are women and children, and a vast majority of injuries occur due to carelessness. It is always good to be safe than sorry. So, if you follow the precautions (listed below), you can protect your family and yourself,” says Dr Dhir.
Read and follow the directions on the labels. Anars, for example, should never be lit while they are in your hand.
Light fireworks in an open area, away from combustible materials.
Keep water handy.
Light a firework at arm’s length, standing back and keeping your face away.
Douse sparklers with water and allow them to cool in a safe place. The end of sparklers remain hot for some time.
FIRST AID FOR SUPERFICIAL BURNS
Remove clothing from the burnt area immediately. But do not try to remove the charred clothing sticking to the skin.
Prevent further injury to the skin by running cool (not cold) water over the burnt area as it eases the pain, removes heat and lowers the temperature in the injured tissue. Alternatively, hold a clean, cold compress on the burn for approximately three to five minutes (do not use ice).
Do not apply butter, grease, powder, or any other remedies to the burn, as this increases the risk of infection.
If the burnt area is small, loosely cover it with a sterile gauze pad or bandage.
Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
FOR EXTENSIVE BURNS
Run under cool water for no longer than five minutes.
Wrap the wound in a clean cloth and take the patient to the medical care facility for treatment.
The face must be left exposed to air.
SEEK IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE, IF...
The burnt area is large, even if it seems like a minor burn. For any burn that appears to cover more than 10 percent of the body, call for medical assistance. Don’t use wet compresses, it can decrease a person’s body temperature.
The burn is caused by fire, electrical wire, socket or chemicals.
The burn is on the face, scalp, hands, joint surfaces or genitals.
The burn looks infected (with swelling, pus, redness)
“A burn occurs when heat from any source, hot liquids, hot solids, radiation (sunburn) flames, radioactivity, electricity and chemicals, destroy some or all of the different layers of cells which form the human skin. The depth of burn depends on the degree of heat, skin’s thickness and the time for which it was exposed to the heat. Infants and old people succumb to burns very easily; but in an old man of 70 years even 10 percent of the burns may be fatal,’’ says Dr Dhir.
Superficial burns heal rapidly; and as partly burnt skin retains some hair follicles, sweat glands and sebaceous glands, it will heal spontaneously in due course of time. When superficial layers of skin are burnt in blisters form (scalds) and clear fluid is discharged from the burnt surface. These burns are agonisingly painful, but if complications due to infection are avoided they can heal fast (within a few weeks) and do not leave behind scars. More severe cases may require skin grafting and surgery.
Burns due to flames and chemicals are deeply layered, and do not affect the hair follicles and sweat glands. In this case many nerve endings get damaged and therefore it is not very painful. These types of burns heal slowly and always leave a scar.
Burns due to electricity, radiation and strong chemicals and fire cause full thickness burns but as all nerve endings get damaged there is no pain. These cannot heal without skin grafting. If not grafted, they will lead to considerable scarring and deformity.
Grafting can be done within the first week, especially for the face, hand and joint areas, and helps prevent contractions. This process involves taking skin from the healthy areas of the body (usually the thigh area) and putting it on the wound. The donor area also heals with new skin growth. Earlier this technique was only available in Europe and America, but today it is practised across India.
Dos and don’ts
■ Don’t relight a dud. It could still go off and have even less of a wick. Let it sit for several minutes and then douse it with water.
■ Don’t use fireworks or sparklers indoors.
■ Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket. They’re explosive and can go off prematurely even if not lit.
■ Don’t light fireworks in metal or glass containers.
■ Read and follow the directions on the labels.
■ Light fireworks in an open area, from arm’s length.