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Today in Health & Wellness

Crackdown on Firecrackers

"When the firework strand ignites, run for your life."
By: Risa Caldoza-De Leon MD, FPAPSHPICrackdown on Firecrackers

Joseph, from Makati City seems to be a normal 12-year-old boisterous boy, until he shows you his left hand, or what’s left of it. “I can still feel my fingers, even if they are gone,” he shares. “They said it was a good thing it was my left because I can still write, but what’s good about it? I can’t even eat properly.” He admits his fault. “I couldn’t resist not lighting the triangulo my older brother bought for New Year’s Eve. But it wouldn’t light on the first try so I went to relight it. It exploded in my hand.”

Joseph is a statistic in the 2015 casualties of fireworks-related injuries. According to Department of Health (DoH), the New Year ushered in 593 injuries, lower than the 986 cases in 2014. These included eye injuries, amputation, stray bullet and fireworks ingestion. Children and teens, mostly males account for most. A lot of the victims used the fireworks themselves.

Scaring away bad luck

In 200 BC China, a man threw a chunk of green bamboo onto a fire. It sizzled and then bam!, it unexpectedly exploded. People and animal ran away from fear. The Chinese thought if it frightened people so much, it would also scare spirits away. The first firecracker was hence borne.

We have gone far from this “bursting bamboo.” The face of firecrackers has changed. The old “fire masters” are now “pyrotechnicians.” From a single POP of yore, now, you can see Mickey Mouse in all its glory, in myriads of colors in the night sky, dancing to the tune of Maroon 5. The simple became more elaborate and spectacular, and the injuries that go hand in hand with it, became graver and more deadly.

Controlled fire

Republic Act (RA) 7183 or the law on pyrotechnic devices, imprisons and/or fines persons caught manufacturing, selling, distributing and purchasing certain firecrackers. Topping the list is Piccolo, the main culprit of injuries since 2007. It can explode on the hands, and may cause death when ingested. Included are the watusi, Super Lolo, Atomic Big Triangulo, mother rockets, lolo thunder, pillbox, Boga, Big Judah’s belt, Big Bawang, Kwiton and Goodbye Philippines. Unlabeled firecrackers were also mentioned.

So like Joseph, who could not resist, if you must light those firecrackers and have a blast (literally) to welcome 2016, here are some tips from the US National Safety Council and Philippine Red Cross, among others.

  • When using fireworks, make sure that you use only authorized firecracker products, and follow manufacturer's instructions to the last letter.
  • Light firecrackers with incense sticks on a flat and solid surface with no dry grass around.
  • Do not use matches, candles, lighters, sparklers and cigarettes lest you want to say goodbye to your fingers.
  • Never light fireworks in a container and light one device at a time.
  • When the firework strand ignites, ran for your life. And when it fails to ignite, do not even think or re-lighting it. Put it in a can of water and get rid of it.

I would not say “I told you so,” but in the case someone gets hurt, the basic rule is to run the injured part on cold running water to clean the wound and reduce heat level. Gently wipe burnt area with clean dry cloth and put an antiseptic cream before wrapping it with clean sheets or gauze. Then run to your nearest hospital and pay the bill. I told you so!

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