Have a safe Christmas observing Health Ministry guidelines | Sunday Observer
Burns from fireworks, speeding, fatigue, poor sight at night, main cause for road accidents

Have a safe Christmas observing Health Ministry guidelines

20 December, 2020

With Christmas just five days away, and the curfew being lifted in most areas, the tendency for Christmas and revellers the numbr of, especially the young, is to enjoy the season with reckless lifestyles. Speeding on roads under the influence of liquor, or without adequate protection for occupants, or not wearing helmets are some of the common causes for these preventable accidents that lead to injury and even death.

National Coordinator Training in the field of Trauma Care Development and Disaster Management  Ms Pushpa Ramya Zoysa  tells Sunday Observer readers how to enjoy a safe Christmas and reduce road  accidents and accidents from fireworks during the festive season , with a few Dos and Don’ts.

Excerpts …

Q. Christmas is just five days away. While this is a season for festivity and cheer, the Covid-19 outbreak has made it necessary for us to celebrate it on a low key. Enforced isolation rules in most parts of the country have been relaxed to enable people to enjoy the season. Do you think this is a good thing?

A. As long as they follow the health regulations issued by the Health Ministry, keeping one metre apart when they go out shopping and wearing face masks when they step onto the roads, they have nothing to worry.  Our worry is that a few, mainly young people will be tempted to speed on the roads and cause accidents that could injure them and even lead to fatalities.  

Q. New reports released have shown that road accidents have surged recently despite restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Your comments?

A. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of accident victims treated from January to December 15, 2020 was 66,000, and admissions – 25,000. In 2019 number of accident victims treated was 90,980 and admissions 34,091.

Q. As National Coordinator Training in the field of Trauma Care Development and Disaster Management, National Hospital (NHSL), tell us what are the  main risk factors for road traffic injuries.

A. The causes for road accidents and injuries are multi factorial.  They include: 

— economic factors such as level of economic development and social deprivation

— demographic factors such as age and sex

— land-use planning practices which influence length of trip and mode of travel

— mixture of high-speed motorised traffic with vulnerable road users

— insufficient attention for integration of road function with decisions on speed limits, road layout and design.  

Risk factors influencing crash involvement are: inappropriate and excessive speed; presence of alcohol, medicinal or recreational drugs; fatigue; young males; youths driving in the same car; a vulnerable road user in urban and residential areas; travelling in darkness; vehicle factors such as braking, handling and maintenance; inadequate visibility due to environmental factors (making it hard to detect vehicles and other road users) and poor eyesight of road users.

Q. What  risk factors influence the level of crash  severity?

A. These include: Inappropriate or excessive speed; not using seat-belts and child restraints when travelling by car;  crash-helmets not worn by users of two-wheeled vehicles; when roadside objects are  not crash-protective and insufficient vehicle crash protection for occupants.

Q. What about the tendency to consume excessive alcohol and non medical harmful drugs during this season?

A. Yes definitely.

Q. What are the Dos and Don’ts after a road accident?

A.     1) Don’t run away or speed away from the scene. Even if the accident is not serious, never, and we cannot emphasise enough, never flee from an accident scene you are involved in. The worst is, you are abandoning casualties who could be saved. Also, if you run, you are bound to be charged with Hit and Run, resulting in imprisonment.

2) Don’t panic

Yes, this is a serious situation. However, you can help others only if you try to stay calm and think straight.

Q. What about those injured by physical violence which are common during the festive season when family quarrels turn to violence after consuming excessive liquor ? What are the Dos and Don’ts?

A. Don’ts for physical injuries

l Don’t remove stabbed object: Removing it would only worsen the bleeding. The object is the only thing obstructing the blood flow. It is best to leave this job to a medical professional.

l Don’t try to move an injured person’s neck: In a serious accident, you may detect a spinal injury by looking at the neck of a person. If it is at an unnatural angle, do not try to move that person.

l Don’t feed the injured with solids or liquids: As it would be hard to determine the extent of injuries, it is best not to feed a person on the accident spot. They could choke or would be unable to chew food due to injuries to the jaw.

4) Don’t blame anyone for the accident

You might have suffered injuries and damages due to the accident. However, blaming the other person would only add to the panic already caused by the accident.

5) Don’t accept settlement without an insurance representative

If the accident was evidently not your fault, the third party may offer low cost settlements. This does not serve the purpose of insurance. Never accept verbal-on-the-spot settlements.

Check your injuries

As soon as you feel better, try to check yourself for more injuries. Some injuries would not necessarily bleed; try to move your arms and legs to find injured spots.

Try to control the bleeding

If you notice a bleeding wound, try to obstruct the blood flow by tying a cloth an inch above the open wound. Pressing a piece of cloth directly on top of the wound will help. Use your palm instead of fingers to apply pressure.

Call for help

If you see more people injured in an accident, the first thing you could do is shout the word “help” multiple times. Locals would be the first to attend an accident spot.

Make three calls

The first should be for medical help (Ambulance 1990). The second call is to the police, to report the accident, and the third to the insurance helpline.

Click pictures of the scene

Once you are sure that no one needs immediate medical attention, start taking pictures of the scene. These will help later, in a police case or insurance claim.

Q. Tell our readers the impacts on health. What do they experience,  1) in a physical sense 2) emotional sense 3 on one’s self worth?   

A.  In car accidents , the more severe physical injuries include brain and head trauma such as a traumatic brain injury, neck injuries such as whiplash, neck strains, or disk damage, and back or spine injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, or disk injuries. 

Physical injuries associated with long-term effects are usually permanent disabilities such as amputations or paralysis, which create a diminished mental capacity. Soft tissue injuries that affect the tissue surrounding and connecting tendons, muscles, and ligaments are also usually long term.

Therefore, determining the extent of an injury and the potential for future pain and suffering is an important component to recover from an auto accident.

Emotional effects of a car accident:  Some injuries are not immediately apparent after an accident, but regardless of when an injury first appears, it can have a long-term effect.

One of the areas in which accident injuries typically are long lasting are those related to psychological or emotional trauma. 

Mental and emotional injuries after an  accident include mental anguish, emotional distress, fear, anger, humiliation, anxiety, shock, embarrassment, random episodes of crying, loss of appetite, weight fluctuations, lack of energy, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

One-third of those involved in a nonfatal accident continue to have the above-mentioned symptoms of emotional trauma a year after the accident including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and phobias. Recovering from long-term emotional and mental injuries after an accident should be calculated into the pain and suffering damages.

Q. Fireworks and crackers are an integral part of Sri Lanka’s New Year celebrations. Yet although the Health Ministry has reiterated its plea for revellers to refrain from lighting any fireworks it is possible that some, mainly the young and reckless  are likely to break the rules to  continue this tradition at the risk of their lives and that of others.  Tell us what adverse health impacts can occur  from lighting fireworks and what are the most dangerous ones that an leave permanent scars if they explode on your face?   

A. Dos:

1) Always light firecrackers in open spaces only

2) For children, always light firecrackers in the presence of parents or elders

3) Keep a safe distance from the body while lighting the crackers.

4) Keep a bucket filled with water ready nearby

5) Store firecrackers away from electrical supply or sources of fire

6) Prevent children from picking up defective or unexplored firecrackers

7) Use a bucket of water or sand to discard used fireworks.


1) Don’t bend forward while lighting firecrackers

2) Don’t use loose or nylon cloths while lighting firecrackers

3) Don’t carry firecrackers in shirt or pants pockets

4) Don’t rub your eye if injury occurs to eye. Wash your eye immediately with water for 10 minutes

5) Don’t cover firecrackers with glass bottles or containers for extra sound

6) Don’t light firecrackers on your hands. It may burst in your palm and cause severe burn injury

7) Never throw firecrackers at any person, electric poles, electric wires, appliances or animals.

8) Firecrackers that fail to explode should not be picked up, as these might explode on the hand

9) Don’t light firecrackers without wearing footwear

10) Don’t light rocket in bottle because these may cause eye and facial injuries. Don’t give rockets or bombs to children for lighting

11) Toxic substance used in firecrackers are harmful to health and noise generated by them cause immense suffering to birds and animals

12) Do not light firecrackers indoors

13) Do not open firecrackers and light them, it is dangerous

14) After burning sparkles do not throw them on the floor, put them in water.

Primary Aid

1) Pour water over burn wounds for 20 minutes. Don’t use ice. Water minimises skin temperature and prevents burn wounds from spreading

2) Put clean cloth over burn wounds

3) Don’t apply toothpaste, ink etc over burn wound

4) Remove rings, bangles or such constricting materials immediately

5)  For facial burns or injury to eye, splash water for a minimum of 30 minutes and cover with clean towel. Take the person to a specialised Burn Centre 6) Consult a doctor immediately.

Q. What is your message to readers on how to be safe during Christmas taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic?

A. The Covid-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of Covid-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe. The first option for many people to spend their Christmas holiday is to stay at home with family members. By staying at home and enjoying Christmas, you can have a nice, warm, and safe Christmas holiday.