A New Year, What a Hazard: A Few Tips on Fireworks and Asthma

Last updated: January 2023

In the past, we have resided in a small city, where fireworks were well-controlled by public services. There would be the occasional rogue cracks of a mine or the sizzles and pops of a Catherine Wheel firework in the distance. The fireworks display set off across the river around 9 PM would be the highlight of the night, celebrating new beginnings, and ridding ourselves of the old. During the good old days, we enjoyed this time of year without much worry while ringing in the New Year. However, the past few years have been chaotic and nerve-wracking, and at times all too overwhelming.

Firework chaos

Currently, we live in a large city with 1.625 million people. Never have we seen the display of illegal, ceaseless noise and explosions as the New Year rang in as we have in the past couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good firework show. And, although you would like to think that law enforcement could control these exploding barrages (prepacked combination of fireworks) and cakes (a mixture of fireworks set off in succession), as the clock hit midnight, the display all around the valley was appalling.

These fireworks are quite a danger for those with chronic illness, people with anxiety, babies, animals, and those suffering from PTSD, not to mention the perils of post-fireworks. A haze left low over the city the following morning exceedingly dangerous for those suffering from breathing problems, such as asthma and COPD; the sulfur, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, nitrous acid, and other harmful chemicals left lingering in the air is vexing and minacious.

A double whammy: Fireworks impact my asthma and anxiety

For me, it is a double whammy dealing with these fireworks; the mixture of chemicals in the air and anxiety makes my asthma hit an all-time high. Because of the continuous crackles and booms causing anxiety-induced asthma, I have a particularly challenging time controlling my breathing, resting, or relaxing over the holidays. Add the haze that lingers near my home, it can be so very menacing on my lungs, especially when they are in my own backyard.

Last year we had neighbors shooting off rockets and mines up and down the street all week long. The people living directly behind us were setting off hours-long barrages at dusk, putting all of us on edge; the large booms and spreading of harmful particle pollution into the immediate air caused undeniable tension and breathing complications the whole first week of the New Year.

This year we waited for the pre-show of booms, crackles, and fizzes. Fortunately, the noise was kept to a minimum between Christmas and the New Year, which was much different than last. A miracle I thought. But as the clock approached midnight, my anxiety rose as increased explosions erupted into the night. The ghastly sounds lasting hours, as if a war zone, were heinous. I woke on New Year’s Day morning with lungs full of phlegm, having a hard time breathing, and relying on my rescue inhaler several times in the days following.

Tips to ease anxiety and asthma due to fireworks

Knowing this is a tough time of year, especially for my emotional support animals (ESAs), as well as myself, I prepared by doing some things I expected would help. I have learned that doing such things has eased my frustration and helped me to enjoy this time of year a little better. These tips ease the anxiety that my pets and I go through before the extensive, never-ending fireworks "show," so that we too head into the New Year refreshed, healthy, and somewhat relaxed.

Close it up:

The first thing I do is secure the house. I close and lock windows and doors to be sure that they are firmly sealed. This ensures the least amount of noise and chemicals entering the house and keeps us all unharmed. And I do my best to have all my outdoor tasks done much earlier in the day or days ahead of the holidays so that I do not need to head out to the stores for missing food items or other commodities.

Purify the air:

One thing I have learned is to use an air purifier in the bedroom, especially during nights like New Year's Eve when fireworks are nonstop and making the air quality bad. I keep it close to my bed to minimize the heavy wheezing and coughing I get from poor air status that can linger for days. I have also purchased a second air purifier this year for the living room, and it has worked wonders to keep my lungs in much better condition.

Use music as a buffer:

During the buildup of fireworks, I have music on in the house. This drowns out the booms and sizzles that can ruin a holiday where no one can relax, especially my two dogs who shake, shiver, and rush to find a safe place when a boom rocks the walls of our home; I can usually find them in the closet under a pile of clothes. The sound of a piano and/or a band can drown out the continuous noise that wreaks havoc on all our nerves during the New Year holiday. Headphones can also be great at drowning out noise, as well. I have a noise-canceling pair for my dogs, also to help ease their fright, which I purchased it from an online pet store. Though they still feel the boom, the loud crack is weakened, their fear is lessened, and they are more manageable.

Meditation and relaxation:

Because fireworks can be loud and continuous in my town for days during this holiday when I am stressed out by them, I do my best to relax on the couch and meditate with my earphones to buffer out the large booms. The meditation and breathing exercises work wonders to calm my over-sensitive nerves. This affords me the grace needed to manage my dogs’ anxiety and my husband’s frustration as he goes about his days hearing big booms.

Get medications in check:

I refill any that are low or out so that I can use them to medicate when anxiety or breathing is out of control. My preventative, Symbicort, was refilled as I was already having symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (URI) worsening my asthma this year. And I refilled my anxiolytic to help me through the stress of harsh noise and long hours of dog stress. I also made sure that we have medications from the veterinarian before this holiday season, so our dogs do not go mad from the disturbances. After meds, once they are calm and sleeping, I can use my earplugs or earphones to help me sleep through the night of incessant explosions.

Head out of town:

This past July 4th, 2022, we headed out of town, about 1-1/2 hours away, with the dogs, to a place we knew was light on fireworks, far away from the noise and chaos. (Even the 4th of July here is well-known for firework displays lasting days.) We wondered if it was worth vacationing far from the noise and if it would make it easier on us all. Renting an air-BnB, I inquired about fireworks near them, and admittedly there were some, though it was much fewer than near our home, so we chose to rent. Gratefully, July 4th was enjoyable, with light fireworks and moderately loud festivities, but nothing like where we live. I breathed a whole lot easier knowing this is a viable option should we find it unbearable in the future. If you are looking to find a resolution to loud fireworks during the holidays, maybe you can head out of town to a remote location to avoid the chaos.

What is your experience with fireworks and asthma?

How do you deal with a night full of fireworks during the New Year celebrations? Is it this bad where you are? How is the air quality the next few days after the New Year? Does this impact your asthma and how do you cope? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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