Chemical burns can occur from improper handling at home or work to malicious acid attacks. Find out what to do and look for in a chemical burn emergency.
What Is Chemical Burns?
Chemical burns, also known as caustic burns, are injuries caused by exposure to a corrosive substance that is strong acid or base. It may cause a reaction to the skin or result in internal organ damage, especially when swallowed.
Most chemical burns result from an accident at home, at school, and more commonly at work. It is prevalent in industries and manufacturing plants that utilize large quantities of chemicals.
Although few fatalities occur after contact, many chemicals can do serious harm. It mostly happens accidentally due to misuse of substances and lack of proper training.
Causes And Risk Factors
Most chemicals that can cause burns are either strong acids or bases. Confirm the toxicity of these substances by looking at the medical information found on the label or the box.
The most common products that can cause chemical burns are bleach, concrete mix, drain and toilet bowl cleaners, pool chlorine, metal cleaners, petrol, and phosphorus found in fireworks and fertilizers.
Infants, seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities are at the highest risk for this injury. This group may not handle chemicals properly due to a lack of assistance or decreased mobility.
Burns from chemicals typically happen by accident. However, it can also result from violence, assault, self-harm, and suicide attempt. This injury is most likely to affect the person’s eyes, face, limbs, hands, or feet.
Proper education, training, and taking extra precautions can reduce the risk of this injury.
Signs And Symptoms
Symptoms of chemical burns are similar to heat burns. These include:
- Redness, irritation, or burning sensation at the affected site
- Numbness or pain surrounding the contact area
- Formation of blisters or dead black skin
- Loss of vision or changes if the chemical gets into the eyes
In severe chemical burns where the substance was inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed into the bloodstream, some of the following symptoms may also occur:
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Feeling of weakness
- Muscle twitching or seizure attack
- Irregular heartbeat resulting in cardiac arrest
Burns from chemical substances can be unpredictable. Death may occur, although it rarely happens.
First Aid Treatment
Immediate first aid care is essential in a chemical burn emergency.
Remove The Source
Rinse the skin under running water for 10 to 15 minutes to remove the chemical. If the substance came in contact with the eyes, wash it continuously for at least 20 minutes before seeking emergency help.
Remove Clothing And Jewellery
Remove any clothing or pieces of jewellery that is exposed to the chemical. Wrap the contact area loosely using a dry, sterile dressing, a clean cloth, or whatever is available.
For superficial burns, over the counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, is the best way to go.
Get Medical Help
Minor burns do not typically require hospitalizations. Go to the emergency room right away if the burn is severe.
Seek medical help if the burn is more than 3 inches (width or length) or if the injury is in the face, hands, feet, groin, or a major joint such as the knee. If the pain is unbearable despite taking medications, call emergency services right away.
The appearance of shock symptoms such as shallow breathing, low blood pressure, and dizziness will also require first aid and emergency help.
Consider all chemical burns as medical emergencies. Call triple zero (000) and seek immediate medical attention.
Learn First Aid For Burns
Harmful chemicals can burn, irritate, and bring severe damages that is sometimes fatal. Anyone with this injury will need emergency help as soon as possible.
While waiting for the ambulance, rinse the chemical off the person’s body and apply first aid. It is essential to treat burns quickly and effectively to prevent possible complications.
Find out what to do in a chemical burn emergency in a first aid course. Appropriate safety training is the best way to reduce the risk and stay safe while handling chemicals at home or work.
Book a Provide First Aid Course today to learn more.