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BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Independence Day celebration means fireworks, of course, which for some is a cautionary time. As beautiful as fireworks may be, loud explosions and smoke can trigger real anxiety for a segment of America's war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Civilians who have been through a traumatic event involving gunfire can feel similar effects. "It can make them very anxious, and feel on guard," said Dr. Laura Gibson, associate chief of mental health at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction.
"For veterans who've been in combat situations which bear resemblance, where there were explosions or gunfire, the smell may trigger memories but in particular the sound. Veterans have told me if they're predicting the show -- or looking at it -- they tend not to be as triggered as if they're walking down the street and someone lights off a firework they're not anticipating. That's much more jarring for them.
"Gibson says it's important for those folks to remember where they are and know the anxiety will pass. "We are not concerned people necessarily will have a full-out flashback, but they could have a panic attack and feel very on edge for a while," she said.
The VA Veterans' Crisis Line telephone number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) then press 1.