Fireworks and Their Implications for Those with PTSD

July 4th and Fireworks

Recently, those who live in the United States celebrated Independence Day on July 4th. While fireworks are utilized for numerous occasions and celebrations, they are most notably associated with Independence Day. These bright displays of pyrotechnics are widely used on the actual holiday, as well as the timeframes leading up to and following it. Although it is difficult to avoid the awe-inducing appeal of fireworks, it is also difficult to avoid their negative implications. It has become apparent that they can actually cause a lot of harm.

In addition to the attractive imagery painted in the sky, fireworks also cause environmental damage. At a time when climate change is becoming increasingly important to consider, it is worth exploring fireworks alternatives for this reason alone. However, in addition to the environmental hazards, fireworks also tend to cause problems for people with pets. They account for numerous injuries and fires every year, and they can cause sincere distress for people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 


PTSD is a complex disorder that affects millions of people in the US every year. This mental health condition occurs after someone experiences trauma. It can be caused by a single traumatic event or ongoing trauma. Both the causes of PTSD, as well as the symptoms that manifest as a result, can vary widely for different individuals. However, one of the most common scenarios attributed to the cause of PTSD is in the case of veterans who have been exposed to situations such as live combat. Just as with causes and symptoms, the situations that can trigger a person’s symptoms of PTSD also vary. For some people, fireworks can be a significant trigger. 

The Correlation Between Fireworks and PTSD

For someone suffering from PTSD, triggers can be numerous and diverse. One common factor among these triggers is their ability to remind the person of the specific trauma or related event. Experiencing sights, sounds, and smells that correlate with the traumatic event can cause the brain to be tricked into thinking there is a threat present. This, in turn, can lead a person’s PTSD symptoms to emerge. The loud, unexpected, or explosive sounds of fireworks, the burning smells, and even the lights can all be compared to stimuli experienced by combat veterans. While combat is the most synonymous situation regarding this combination of stimuli, they are potentially triggering for numerous other trauma-related scenarios as well. For example, anyone who has experienced trauma related to gun violence may be triggered by the sounds and smells of fireworks.

Because symptoms and triggers vary widely, it is hard to predict how fireworks will affect someone specifically. For this reason, it may be worth exploring alternatives to the traditional form of fireworks, or excluding them completely. This is one general way to help prevent distress for anyone who may be suffering. In addition, for those who do use fireworks, there are ways to do so while being considerate and respectful to those around you.

Alternatives and Tips for Being Respectful

In addition to the growing amount of information we have regarding the implications of traditional fireworks, alternatives have also started being developed and made available for use. “Silent” fireworks are a quieter option that do not have the same level of sound as others. They are available for individual use and have been known to benefit multiple facets affected by traditional fireworks. These include but are not limited to: those who suffer from PTSD, those with sensory processing disorders, and pets. Drone light shows are another good alternative for communities or larger displays. The drones utilize music and lights as opposed to loud explosives. For example, Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana uses these drones for their Independence Day celebrations. Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, Missouri also uses drone light shows regularly. 

For those who want to use traditional fireworks, there are ways to be mindful of those around you who may struggle with them. Because the holiday occurs on July 4th every year, planning and expectations are easier to navigate. If you use fireworks, it is helpful to limit this usage to the actual holiday only, as that is the most predictable. Setting them off in the evening, while being mindful of the time can also help those trying to cope. Ending the fireworks at a reasonable time, such as 10 PM, can help ensure the predictability and any effects they may have on sleep. For those trying to cope with fireworks, there are several avenues to explore that may help.  

Tips to Help Cope with Fireworks

If you are someone that struggles with PTSD and the 4th of July holiday, there are different recommendations and tools available to help cope with the triggers you may be exposed to. Communicating is important for those who have an accessible support system, whether it be a friend or family member. Talking to a professional or exploring professional resources may also help someone gain techniques for navigating symptoms, should they arise. Planning ahead of time helps to establish a reliable and safe environment that may lower the risk of exposure to triggers and the development of symptoms. 


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or PTSD, there are numerous resources accessible. It is okay to ask for help.

Veteran resources:

National Center for PTSD website:

  • This website includes PTSD resources and veteran resources, including the PTSD Coach mobile app.

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 988, press 1

General mental health resources:

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Alliance on Mental Illness:

This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications.

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