Chemical burns occur if the eyes or skin are exposed to an irritant. It is important to note that chemical burns can trigger a reaction on the skin or inside the body. The burns can also affect the internal organs if the chemicals are ingested.
The initial step is to check the mouth for any burns or cuts immediately if a chemical was ingested. It is vital to call the local poison control or bring the individual to the emergency department if a chemical is swallowed. Call for emergency assistance if an individual sustained a burn and loses consciousness.
What are the causes?
Acids and bases are the usual cause of most chemical burns. Cases brought about by chemicals can occur at home, work, school or any place where chemicals are present. Some of the common products that can trigger burns include:
- Car battery acid
- Pool chlorination products
- Denture cleaners
- Teeth whitening products
Indications of chemical burns
The indications of chemical burns tend to vary depending on how it occurred. Generally, the usual symptoms linked with this type of burn include:
- Irritation, burning or redness of the affected area
- Blackened or dead skin, usually from acid
- Pain or numbness in the affected area
- Vision loss or changes if the chemical entered the eye
In case a chemical is ingested, the following symptoms might arise such as:
- Erratic heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Cardiac arrest or heart attack
- Muscle twitching
The first aid care for chemical burns must be started right away. This involves removal of the chemical responsible for the burn by cleaning the skin with running water for 10-20 minutes. In case the chemical entered the eye, rinse continuously for at least 20 minutes before seeking emergency care.
Get rid of any clothing or jewelry that has been contaminated by the chemical. Cover the burned area in a loose manner using dry sterile dressing or clean cloth if possible. For a superficial burn, provide the individual with an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin. Bring the individual to the emergency department right away if the burn appears serious.
Depending on the severity, the doctor might utilize the following measures to manage the burn:
- Anti-itch medications
- Debridement which involves removal of dirt and dead tissue
- Intravenous fluids
- Skin grafting involves attaching healthy skin taken from another part of the body
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on chemical burns is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage burns, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.