Experts warn of impact of fireworks for veterans with PTSD

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. —Fourth of July holiday celebrations and fireworks go hand in hand. But for many of our nation's veterans, firework celebrations can be triggers for PTSD.

Experts say the light and sound of fireworks can cause those that suffer to relive trauma or experience painful physical, or emotional side effects that can last for hours.

“They might experience racing heart, they might experience tightening muscles around their chest or in their body, they might experience sweating, and just general physical discomfort,” said Chief psychologist for Veterans Health Indiana Dr. Shannon Woller.

Woller added that unexpected loud noises are particularly problematic for those with PTSD.

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 11-20% of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. It is also estimated that 12% of Gulf War veterans have PTSD and 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

“The emotions are very painful, the memories are very painful, the physical sensations are very uncomfortable and do last much longer than the triggers for those events,” Woller said.

Woller adds that alerting neighbors that you’re planning to set off fireworks may be a good way to give a veteran with PTSD time to anticipate the triggers.

She also recommends only setting off fireworks during times that are allowed by state/city laws or ordinances, that way someone with PTSD can anticipate when they might be set off.

For more information on PTSD and resources for help, you can click here.