Treating Chemical Burns

Treating Chemical Burns

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

This guide is an overview of chemical burns and their treatments. Although ideal and more relevant for those working in an industrial setting where there are many more chemicals used, this guide can also be applied at home if such accidents should happen. Chemical burns can be caused by both acids and alkalis, although caustic chemicals can also be found in household products. For example, phenols in disinfectants, sanitisers and deodorisers, lye that is found in paint removers and drain cleaners, sulphuric acid in toiler cleaners and sodium hypochlorite in bleaches and disinfectants. The damage caused by a chemical burn may not look so bad but when deep tissues are involved there can be serious consequences. Therefore, it is recommended that professional chemical burn treatment is sought as soon as possible regardless of whether the burn seems minor or not.

First Aid Chemical Burn Treatment

  1. Move the victim to a place far away from the site of where the accident occurred. This avoids the possibility of further injury.
  2. Remove all articles of clothing that has become contaminated with the chemical. Dry powered chemicals should be brushed away carefully but not with water, as some can generate heat in reaction to water.
  3. Rinse the area with cool water for about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not use ice or ice water as this can cause further damage to healthy tissues.

All chemical burns, whether it is a 1st degree or a 3rd degree burn, should be regarded as a medical emergency. Although the majority of these kinds of burns do not require hospitalisation, the burn and its severity should be checked and evaluated by a trained medical professional. Accident and Emergency staff are most often trained to be able to determine how severe a burn is.

This guide enables avoidance of several possible complications in case the chemical burn is determined to be serious. Serious consequences of a chemical burn that must be avoided include dehydration, shock, infection, the effect of too much myoglobin in the blood, eschars that may affect blood flow, and chemical imbalances. Various treatments can be used to minimise the possibilities of such complications include using a large quantity of IV fluids, consumption of foods rich in protein, cleaning and disinfection of the affected area, antibiotics to fight off infections, and surgery to remove eschars. Skin grafts may be used to treat the scars after the wounds have healed.

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