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‘Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot…’
Every year you’ll find us stood around a huge, fierce, burning pile of wood, sipping mugs of steaming hot chocolate and trying not to lose sight of the children in the pitch black field on which we are standing, freezing cold, and eagerly awaiting the jaw dropping firework display.
Bonfire Night is a much loved British tradition and a chance for families and friends to gather together. However, it’s also one of the busiest times of year for the Ambulance Service. A survey by St John Ambulance revealed that a third or parents and grandparents have witnessed an injury during Bonfire Night celebrations!
So, whether you are attending an organised event or keeping it low key at home with a few sparklers and rockets read our guide below to keeping the family safe this Bonfire Night!
Sparklers are fun but they can be fierce and reach temperatures of 2000 degrees C! That’s as hot as an industrial blowtorch! Children should be closely supervised when holding sparklers and we recommend that gloves are worn and that they only hold one sparkler at a time. Have a bucket of water to hand, where the sparkler can be carefully placed once it has finished burning. Never wave a sparkler near to somebody else and never run whilst holding one! Never allow a child under 5 years to hold their own sparkler.
No matter how careful you are, injuries can happen. Follow our First Aid steps below for treating burns:
- Cool the burn – place under running water immediately and hold for at least 20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain, swelling and the risk of scarring.
- Cover the burn – cling film or clean plastic bags are ideal as they help to keep the area clean and prevent infection. They also reduce pain by keeping air from the skin’s surface!
- Assess the seriousness of the burn – if the burn is deep, larger than the size of a hand, on the face, hands or feet or if a baby or child has been burnt…seek urgent medical advice!
If someone is burnt through a glove (or other articles of clothing) do not try to remove the glove if it is stuck to the burn. This could cause more damage. Cool the burn through the glove with cold, running water for at least ten minutes and seek urgent medical treatment.
Most of all firework injuries occur during home displays in the garden and half of these injuries happen to under 16s. We would always recommend attending a public fireworks display but if you aren’t able to and what to hold a firework party at home make sure you have a fully stocked (and in date) first aid kit to hand, a fire blanket and access to plenty of water. Always light fireworks at an arm’s length using a taper and never return to a lit firework! Ensure that anybody watching stands at a suitable distance, preferably inside. Most importantly, only use fireworks that have the British standard mark (BS 7114) printed on the box.
A burn caused by a firework is more likely to be severe, especially if clothing has caught fire. The following First Aid steps should be followed if such an incident takes place:
- Stop – The fire affected person must stop, ceasing any movement which may fan the flames or hamper those attempting to put the fire out.
- Drop – The fire affected person must drop to the ground, lying down if possible, covering their face with their hands to avoid facial injury.
- Roll – The fire affected person must roll on the ground in an effort to extinguish the fire by depriving it of oxygen. If the victim is on a rug or one is nearby, they can roll the rug around themselves to further extinguish the flame.
All serious burns must be treated as a medical emergency and it is essential that a call to 999 is made.
Treat the burn as described in the Sparkler section above and remove any jewellery or clothing near the burn (unless it is stuck on).
Monitor the person for signs of shock, whilst you wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Shock is a life-threatening condition, which happens when the body isn’t getting a suffcient flow of blood, leading to potential damage to vital organs such as the brain and heart. It is important to try and keep somebody in shock reassured and calm so that the shock doesn’t worsen.
Symptoms of shock
- Pale, cold, clammy skin
- Feeling weak and dizzy
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Fast, weak pulse
- Yawning or sighing
- Loss of responsiveness
First Aid Response
- Lay the casualty down flat on their back and raise and support their legs. This increases the flow of blood to their head.
- Call 999 and explain why you think they are in shock (the cause i,e severe burn)
- Losen any tight clothing around the neck, chest or waist
- Reassure them to keep them calm and cover with a blanket to keep themwarm whilst you wait for help to arrive.
- Keep checking their breathing and monitor their responsiveness
- If they become unresponsiveness, open their airway, check their breathing and if not breathing prepare to administer CPR.
Debris from Bonfires
The most common injuries that St John Ambulance volunteers are required to treat at Bonfire Night gatherings are burns, debris in the eye from bonfires and fireworks and smoke inhalation. Even if you are stood far back from a burning bonfire, debris can easily be blown into the eye, particularly if there is a wind!
If someone feels something has gone into their eye, follow the First Aid steps below:
- Ask the casualty to sit down facing a light. Advise them not to rub the eye.
- Wash your hands and carefully open the eye
- If you can see something lodged in the eye, cover both eyes and call 999. Use a sterile dressing, or a clean non-fluffy pad to cover the eyes.
- If the object in the eye is moving freely, use a sterile eye wash and gently irrigate the eye to remove it.
- Seek medical advice if the casualty is still in pain or discomfort
Thinking ahead and taking steps to prepare activities in advance can often serve as to minimise risk and prevent some first aid incidents taking place. This includes making sure you have a First Aid box to hand that contains the essential safety items. Watch out for expiry dates on plasters and creams!
Wishing you a safe Guy Fawkes Night,
The Trainingly Team