Fireworks first aid - how to stay safe on bonfire night
With bonfire night in full swing, we have issued advice on how
to treat some of the more common injuries which occur at this time
If you’re organising a fireworks display, however big or small,
you need to ensure that you have a handy first aid kit close by –
just in case an accident occurs.
Burns and scalds
Burns and scalds are damage to the skin caused by heat. A
burn is usually caused by dry heat, like fire, a hot iron, or the
sun. A scald is caused by wet heat, like steam or a hot cup of
You need to be extra careful when treating burns. The longer the
burning goes on, the more severe the injury will be, and the longer
it may take to heal. So you need to cool the burn as soon as
If someone has a severe burn or scald they are likely to suffer
from shock, because of fluid loss, so they will need urgent
hospital treatment (shock is a life-threatening condition, not to
be confused with emotional shock).
What to look for
If you think someone has a burn or scald, there are five key
things to look for:
- 1. Red skin
- 2. Swelling
- 3. Blisters (may form on the skin later on. If there are
blisters, do not burst them).
- 4. The skin may peel
- 5. The skin may be white or scorched.
What you need to do
- Stop the burning getting any worse, by moving the casualty or
injured person away from the source of heat.
- Start cooling the burn or scald as quickly as possible. Hold
it under cool running water for at least ten minutes or until the
pain feels better. (Don’t use ice, creams or gels – they can damage
tissues and increase the risk of infection).
- Assess how bad the burn is. It is serious if it is:
- • a child that has received a burn larger than the size of the
- • on the face, hands or feet, or
- • a deep burn
If it is serious, call 999 or 112 for emergency medical
- Remove any jewellery or clothing near the burn (unless it is
stuck to it).
- When the burn is cooled, cover the area loosely with kitchen
cling film (lengthways over the burn not around the limb) or
another clean, non-fluffy material, like a clean plastic bag. This
will protect it from infection.
- Monitor the person and if necessary, treat them for shock.
- If you are unsure if the burn is serious then tell the person
to see a healthcare professional.
Shock (not to be confused with emotional shock) is a
life-threatening condition, which happens when the body isn’t
getting enough flow of blood. This means that the cells of the body
don’t get enough oxygen to enable them to work properly, which can
lead to damage of the vital organs like the brain and the
Shock can be caused by anything that reduces the flow of blood,
- • severe internal or external bleeding
- • heart problems, such as a heart attack, or heart failure
- • loss of body fluids, from dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting or
- • severe allergic reactions and severe infection
- • spinal cord injury
If someone has any of the conditions above, which can reduce the
circulation or blood flow, they could develop shock, so you may
need to treat them for this condition as well. Remember, fear and
pain can make shock worse by increasing the body’s demand for
oxygen, so try to reassure and calm the person.
What to look for
If you think somebody could be suffering from shock, there are
seven key things to look for:
- 1. They may have pale skin which may be cold and clammy
- 2. They may be weak and dizzy
- 3. They may have fast, shallow breathing
- 4. A fast, weak pulse
- 5. Yawning or sighing
- 6. Confusion
- 7. Loss of responsiveness (in extreme cases)
What you need to do
If they are showing signs of shock:
- • Lay them down flat on their back and raise and support their
legs, to increase the flow of blood to their head.
- • Call 999 or 112 for medical help and say you think they are
in shock, and explain what you think caused it (such as bleeding or
a broken bone).
- • Loosen any tight clothing around the neck, chest and waist to
make sure it doesn’t constrict their blood flow
- • Reassure them to keep them calm and warm. While waiting for
help to arrive cover them with a coat or blanket.
- • Keep checking their breathing and whether they can respond to
- • If they become unresponsive at any point, open their airway,
check their breathing, and prepare to treat someone who has become
Common types of eye injury include:
- • Foreign objects getting stuck in the eye either:
- - On the surface of the eye, like an eyelash or some grit,
- - Or embedded into the eyeball, like wood, metal or glass;
- • Cuts or grazes, from sharp objects like glass or metal;
- • Or a severe blow to the eye, from direct trauma, like a hard
object, e.g. a ball or a fist.
All eye injuries are potentially serious.
Foreign objects which lie on the surface of the eye can easily
be rinsed out. Sharp fragments like metal or glass may cut or
penetrate the eye and become embedded. If this is the case, the
person should not attempt to remove the object but cover the eye
and seek specialist help as soon as possible.
Grazes to the surface of the eye, especially to the part of the
eye called the cornea (the surface covering the pupil, lens and the
coloured part of the eye) can lead to scarring or infection, which
could permanently damage a person’s vision.
Direct blows to the eye can lead to bleeding within or behind
the eye which again can lead to visual loss.
What to look for:
The five key things to look for are:
- 1. Pain or discomfort in the eye or eyelid
- 2. Screwed up eyelids and watering from the eye
- 3. A visible wound or a bloodshot appearance
- 4. Blurred; partial or total loss of vision
- 5. Blood or a clear fluid leaking from a wound in the eye
If you notice, or someone complains of, any of these symptoms
you need to take action to help to prevent further damage to the
What you need to do:
If you think the person might have something in their eye:
- Advise the casualty not to rub their eye as this could make it
- Ask them to sit down facing a light.
- Stand behind them and gently open their eyelids with your
thumbs and ask them to look right, left, up and down as you look
closely at the eye.
- If you can see something in there, ask them to tip their head
backwards and turned so the affected eye was facing down, and then
wash it out by gently pouring clean water into the inner corner of
the affected eye.
- If this doesn’t work and the object is still on the surface of
the eye, you could try to remove it with a moist piece of gauze or
the corner of a clean handkerchief or tissue. If the object isn’t
easy to remove or the eye is very painful, seek medical advice.
- If you think their eye may be bruised or cut:
- Advise them to lie on their back. Hold their head to keep it
as still as possible.
- Tell them to try to keep both eyes still, as moving their
‘good’ eye will also move the ‘bad’ eye, which could make it
- Give them a sterile dressing, or a clean non-fluffy pad to
hold over their ‘bad’ eye. If it will be a while before you can get
medical help, you can hold the pad in place with a light bandage.
Then take or send them to hospital.
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