For those who don't enjoy fireworks, some tips for this holiday weekend

A sparkler and an American flag.
Two Fourth of July celebration traditions: a sparkler and an American flag.
Stephanie McCabe | Unsplash

If people are gathering for a Fourth of July celebration, there’s a good chance it will include a fireworks display. Sparklers, snakes and tubes that emit sparks are legal in Minnesota but firecrackers and rockets — any fireworks that are aerial or explosive — remain illegal in our state.

While fireworks continue to be an integral part of the holiday, they may bring fear to veterans, pets and wild animals.

For some veterans, fireworks can trigger PTSD from combat and mirror the sudden and loud noises they experienced during their service. Because of this, it is important to be mindful of family members, friends or neighbors who have served in the armed forces.

Matt Kaler, program manager with the PTSD clinical team at the Minneapolis VA Health Care system, said it is fairly common for veterans to feel apprehensive about fireworks.

“Oftentimes [PTSD] is expressed as ambivalence, being torn between wanting to enjoy the holiday and festivities and wanting others to enjoy it as well, but also acknowledging that some of the loud and unexpected sounds, flashing lights and smells associated with fireworks can be strong reminders of challenging and powerful memories,” Kaler said.

Kaler says it is important that veterans and others suffering from PTSD practice relaxation strategies such as diaphragmatic breathing, cut down on substances that may influence their emotional state such as alcoholic beverages and caffeine and seek support when needed.

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Minnesota offers many events that extend far beyond fireworks, so all can enjoy:

For pets, it is best to not bring them to any Fourth of July fireworks shows. More pets go missing around the Fourth than at any other time of year, due to being scared of fireworks. Both wild and domestic animals can suffer fatal health effects from the stress of fireworks.

According to the Humane Society, bald eagles see the sounds and lights from fireworks as a threat and may abandon their nests or habitats. Wild birds frightened by the noise will fly higher and for longer, potentially exposing them to the harmful ingredients in fireworks that can cause cardiovascular and respiratory damage and — sometimes — even death.

Wildlife like deer, squirrels and rabbits may mistake debris from fireworks as food, and pollutants from fireworks can wash into their waterways and contaminate their drinking water.

Here are some tips to keep the pets in your life safe during the Fourth of July:

  • Make sure pets are wearing updated identification tags so they can be returned if they get lost.

  • Never leave pets outside and unattended during a fireworks display. They may panic and escape.

  • Keep pets in a safe, indoor place. Leave a radio or TV on to mask the noise and comfort them.

  • For dogs, consider noise-canceling headphones that can muffle the sounds, or anxiety wraps, a fabric that will put gentle pressure on your dog’s body.

  • Create a safe space for your pet with their favorite things. If you decide to keep them in one room, make sure to include water and food, toys, a blanket or other relaxing items to keep them comfortable.

If you find yourself in crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line Home (veteranscrisisline.net) can be reached 24/7 via internet chat, by texting 838255 or by calling 1-800-273-8255 (press 1). To learn more about effective treatments for trauma-related distress, the “About Face” website AboutFace | National Center for PTSD (va.gov) contains a great deal of information, including testimonials from many Veterans who have sought and benefited from treatment related to their traumas.