While fireworks are an American tradition to celebrate Independence Day, some with sensitive ears, such as pets or veterans, can experience high anxiety during the blasts.
Here’s a list of ways to assist pets, dementia patients and veterans during firework celebrations.
Health communications agency Curation says loud firework noises can cause fear and anxiety in dogs, causing them to run away or hide. When a dog does this, they are experiencing noise aversion, which causes symptoms similar to a panic attack.
With this in mind, it is important to keep an eye on unusual behavior from your dog that is triggered by loud noises. During Fourth of July celebrations, there are several ways to help your dog cope with stress from firework shows.
- Keep pets secured in a quiet room during the displays.
- Talk to your veterinarian about products and medications that may help.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped in case they bolt and escape during the noise.
People with dementia and Alzheimers
According to the Alzheimers Foundation of America (AFA), firework noise can create challenges for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.
The AFA says fireworks can be distressing for someone with dementia, especially if they are a veteran. Even when the person is inside, the noise from firework explosions can cause anxiety or agitation. Large crowds can also be overwhelming for people with dementia.
To prepare for Independence Day, the AFA has provided tips to make the holiday “dementia-friendly.”
- Consider keeping the person indoors at times when fireworks will go off.
- Adapt the fireworks tradition by watching a filmed display on TV.
- Explain to your loved one in advance that there may be loud noises and continue telling them this at different intervals.
- Put on soothing background sounds such as a white noise machine or an air conditioner.
- Have comfort items on hand like a blanket or an article of clothing.
- Occasionally check in with your loved one during the night if they live with you. If they live alone, stay overnight with them or ask a trusted friend, relative or caregiver to do so.
- Keep gatherings small and give guests name tags to help the person with dementia recall who is who.
- Host celebrations during daylight to prevent confusion as the sun sets.
- Keep the person’s routines as normal as possible, including mealtimes, naptimes and bedtimes while incorporating favorite activities throughout the day.
- Get your loved one in the Independence Day spirit with activities like creating decorations, playing patriotic music, baking holiday-themed desserts, or making a photo album with Fourth of July memories.
- Families with questions or concerns can talk to a licensed social worker by calling AFA’s Helpline at (866) 232-8484 or visiting the AFA’s website. The helpline is open seven days a week.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a major part of helping veterans during Independence Day is to plan ahead. Recognizing triggers in advance can prevent potential problems.
Some common triggers for veterans during the holiday include:
- Light sensitivity to fireworks and sparklers, especially at night;
- Strong reactions to sounds like fireworks, ceremonial guns and cannon fire;
- Anxiety in crowds;
- Flashbacks triggered by sounds or smell;
- Feeling distant from family during celebrations;
- Risky behaviors like excessive alcohol consumption.
Other helpful tips include:
- If throwing a celebration, ask guests in advance if they experience difficulties during fireworks;
- Use quieter alternatives to fireworks such as sparklers;
- Consider excluding alcohol or other intoxicating substances from Independence Day celebrations;
- Practice a few self-help tips or relaxation exercises;
- Find more resources for Veterans and their families on the Make The Connection website.