Pravir Sen cannot wait to buy firecrackers for Diwali. But worry dawns on his father thinking of the health hazards like lung and skin infections and burn injuries that firecrackers bring along with only a few seconds of joy.
Noting an increase in the number of respiratory problems and burn injuries during Diwali, health experts advise caution while celebrating the festival of lights.
"I do not want to rob my son of the happiness the festival brings - which in his case is brought by firecrackers and sky-shots. But, I do not want him to be exposed to any hazardous effects such crackers are known to produce...I am in a fix," Kapil Sen, the seven-year-old's father whose son suffers from respiratory problems, said.
According to health experts, a few health concerns that Diwali brings along include: acute asthma attacks; chronic lung diseases; bronchitis in patients who are allergic, causing severe dry irritating cough increasing in intensity while speaking and at night; apart from eye and nasal irritation and damage to the eardrums.
"Especially those who have chronic lung disorders should continue to take their regular medications. These patients may need to increase their medication and this requires a regular visit to the doctor before Diwali," Vikas Maurya, senior consultant, respiratory medicine, interventional pulmonology, allergy, and sleep disorders, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, told IANS.
Maurya added that such patients should avoid places with heavy cracker pollution and use masks and ear-plugs on venturing out.
Experts also suggest that loose clothes like saris, frocks and anarkalis and those made inflammable material should be avoided at all costs.
"Don't fire a cracker in the hand and keep young children and senior citizens away from crackers. Young children should play with crackers in the presence of parents and seniors only," B.M. Abrol, ENT Specialist at PSRI Hospital, told IANS.
Abrol added that perishable sweets, especially made of milk and khoya, should neither be eaten nor gifted - as they are made much before the festival.
Highlighting the side effects of Diwali, union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in an Oct 16 email to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung urged him to ensure that the national capital celebrates a noise-pollution free Diwali.
His email referred to a July 2005 Supreme Court order that had banned the bursting of fire crackers in residential areas.
In his email, the health minister, who is a well-known ENT specialist, said that firecrackers, apart from causing noise pollution lead to many physical diseases in people of all age groups.
Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant, respiratory and critical care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, cautioned people against wearing synthetic and loose clothes.
"Keep a first aid kit handy. If you get burns then put it under water. Keep eye drops with you all the time. People with respiratory problems should keep their
inhalers close by and try and stay indoors," Chawla told IANS.
For skin rashes, he suggested exposing the affected area to water and then applying Betadine ointment.
"If it gets worse show it to a doctor," he added.
Doctors agreed that not consulting them and keeping the wound exposed is one of the biggest mistakes people commit in case of an untoward incident.
"Using home remedies as suggested by nearby people who are not doctors could be a recipe for disaster. Please reach any nearby hospital's emergency department
immediately to avoid subsequent complications or problems," Abrol said.
Agreed Maurya, who said: "Not consulting with the doctor and not revising the medications are the biggest mistakes people tend to sometimes make."
"Secondly, ignoring regular medications as well as precautions and self-medication are another set of mistakes".
To sum up, all doctors were unanimous in stating that a cracker free Diwali is a healthy Diwali.
(Shweta Sharma can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)