FIREWORKS, NEW clothes and sweets make Diwali the most eagerly awaited festival of the year. However, it is far from being a holiday for most hospitals, which are on constant alert in case they need to tackle mishaps. While most doctors have said awareness levels about how to play safely with firecrackers has increased, injuries due to firecrackers continue to trickle in during the festive period.
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At H V Desai Eye hospital, Dr Nikhil Rishikeshi, Head of the Department of Paediatric Opthalmology, said the next two weeks will be hectic. “There has been more awareness about firecracker-related hazards but we expect to get at least 10-15 cases per week with blunt trauma to the eye. We see more patients from the urban rather than rural areas,” he said.
Dr Shilpa Joshi, eye surgeon at H V Desai eye hospital, however, noted that the severity of eye injuries has come down. “We see more cases of injuries to the eyelids and external surface,” Joshi said. Sassoon General Hospital and National Institute of Ophthalmology too sees the trend of fewer severe eye injuries. Dr Aditya Kelkar, director at NIO, said the number of penetrating eye injuries and sight-threatening complications has come down in the last few years.
Studies have shown firecrackers have significant amounts of heavy metals like lead and cadmium and their fumes contain highly harmful oxides of sulphur, phosphorous, nitrogen and carbon. Dr Seemab Shaikh, former President of the Association of ENT surgeons of Pune, said high decibel noises from firecrackers may trigger problems like temporary hearing loss and sleep disturbances, apart from causing stress and annoyance. Shaikh, who is the head of ENT department at Inamdar hospital, added, however, that there were fewer cases being reported mainly due to increasing awareness about the side-effects of bursting firecrackers.
At Sassoon General Hospital’s plastic surgery department, in-charge Dr Parag Sahasrabuddhe says they see one or two cases of burns from firecrackers daily. “These are minor burns and we have not seen any major cases in the last few years,” he added.
When contacted, Pune Municipal Corporation’s fire department chief Prashant Ranpise said last year they had to attend to seven fire calls during Diwali days. “So far we have not got a single fire call”, Ranpise added. He did, however, urge children to avoid bursting crackers on terraces and advised residents to park vehicles at safe places if they want to burst crackers on the road. Children should never be left alone and everyone should use a long candle to light crackers. Buckets filled with water should be kept nearby, the fire department chief said.