Fireworks first aid

Fireworks

With bonfire week in full swing, St John Ambulance has issued advice on how to treat some of the more common injuries which occur at this time of year.

If you are organising a firework display, however small, you should ensure there is a fully stocked first aid kit close by – just in case of accidents.

Isobel Sternfeld, Training Officer at St John Ambulance, said: ‘Bonfire night is an exciting time and every year we hear about accidents and injuries associated with this celebration. The majority of these injuries can be easily treated when you know a little bit of first aid.

By following our advice and keeping a well stocked first aid kit to hand, families can enjoy the fireworks knowing they are prepared, should an emergency arise’

Isobel Sternfeld
Training Officer, St John Ambulance

‘By following our advice and keeping a well stocked first aid kit to hand, families can enjoy the fireworks knowing they are prepared, should an emergency arise.’

This information is no substitute for first aid training.

Minor burns

A minor burn is red and painful and sometimes results in a blister - for instance when a child picks up an old sparkler that hasn’t cooled down.

  • Hold the affected area under cold, running water for at least 10 minutes. Remove any jewellery while you are cooling. Once it is cool cover the burn with a sterile dressing or clean, non-fluffy material to protect from infection. Kitchen film or a clean plastic bag make a good alternative dressing
  • If the burn is larger than the palm of the casualty’s hand it will require medical attention
  • Special care should be taken if the burn is on a young child or an elderly person. All deep burns of any size will require urgent hospital treatment.

If clothing is on fire

Remember these four key things: stop, drop, wrap and roll.

  • Stop the casualty panicking or running – any movement or breeze will fan the flames
  • Drop the casualty to the ground and wrap them in a blanket, coat, or rug. Ensure they are made from inflammable fabrics such as wool
  • Roll the casualty along the ground until the flames have been smothered.

Severe burns

If clothing has caught on fire it is more than likely that the burn will be severe. A severe burn is deep and doesn’t hurt as much as a minor one due to damaged nerve endings.

  • Start cooling the burn immediately under running water for at least 10 minutes. Use a shower or hose if the burns are large. Keep cooling the burn while waiting for professional help to arrive
  • Instruct a helper to dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance
  • Make the casualty as comfortable as possible, ideally lie them down
  • Continue to pour copious amounts of cold water over the burn until the pain is relieved. If the burn covers a large area of the body, watch that you don’t induce hypothermia (see below)
  • Whilst cooling, remove any constricting items such as jewellery or clothing from the affected area unless they are stuck to the burn. Wear disposable gloves if they are available
  • Cover the burn with a sterile dressing or clean, non-fluffy material to protect from infection. Kitchen film or a clean plastic bag make a good alternative dressing
  • Treat for shock (see below).

For ALL burns DO NOT

  • Use lotions, ointments and creams
  • Use adhesive dressings
  • Break blisters.

Shock

If someone has a near miss with a firework and is feeling weak and looking pale.

  • Lay the casualty down on a blanket or coat to insulate them from the cold ground. Constantly reassure them and raise and support their legs to improve the blood supply to their vital organs
  • Take care if you suspect a fracture
  • With permission, loosen any tight clothing at the neck, chest and waist
  • Keep the casualty warm by covering them with a coat or blanket. Give lots of comfort and reassurance
  • DO NOT GIVE THEM ANYTHING TO EAT, DRINK OR SMOKE as this will cause their blood to be redirected away from their vital organs.

Hypothermia

This can be caused by standing around in the cold while improperly dressed. Symptoms include shivering, cold skin, disorientation, lethargy and slow breathing.

  • Take the casualty to a sheltered place as soon as possible.
  • Replace any wet clothing with dry and shield them from the wind. Insulate them with clothing or blankets and cover their head
  • If you cannot get the casualty indoors, protect them from the ground and put them in a sleeping bag, if available. You can also cover them with blankets or newspapers and enclose them in a plastic or foil survival bag, if one is to hand
  • To help re-warm a casualty who is conscious, give them warm drinks and high energy foods such as chocolate
  • DO NOT leave the casualty alone. If you are at all concerned seek medical aid.

Sprains and strains

These can be caused by falling or tripping over. There may be pain and tenderness with swelling and difficulty in moving the injured area.

  • Advise the casualty to sit or lie down. Support the injured limb in a comfortable position
  • If it is a recent injury, cool the area by applying an ice pack to reduce the pain and swelling
  • Apply compression to the injury by surrounding the area with a thick layer of padding, such as cotton wool, and securing with a bandage
  • Raise the injured part to minimise bruising
  • If the pain is severe or you are worried send them to hospital, otherwise advise them to rest.

St John Ambulance first aiders will be present at many large firework displays all over the country to offer treatment and help firework goers enjoy the fun.