How Do I Treat a Chemical Burn?

Chemical burns may occur when contact with highly dangerous chemicals in industrial manufacturing is made with the skin.
A chemical burn should be covered with a dry, sterile dressing after it is washed and dry.
A chemical burn should be washed thoroughly with cold water.
The dressing on a chemical burn should be changed regularly, cleaning the wound each time.
Blisters, scabs, and peeling skin should not be picked at following a chemical burn, as this will inhibit proper healing.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Lianxun Zhang, Light Impression, Xy, Casanowe, Daniel Oines
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Treatment of a chemical burn is dependent on removing the chemical causing the burn, and then cleaning the area to promote healthy healing. While minor chemical burns can be treated at home, chemical burns sometimes require the attention of a doctor. If chemical burns cover a large area of the body or are extremely deep, the patient should be taken to see a physician as soon as possible. Likewise, if a patient appears dizzy, sick, disoriented, weak, or faint after a chemical burn, this can indicate that the burn has caused a more systemic injury which requires treatment.

Chemical burns happen when the body is exposed to caustic or acidic chemicals. These chemicals can range from ordinary household chemicals which contact the skin for prolonged periods to highly dangerous chemicals used in industrial manufacturing. In all cases, the first step in treating a chemical burn is flushing the area thoroughly with cold water to get the chemical off.

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If the chemical is dry, it should be brushed off before rinsing. Whether wet or dry, it is a good idea for the patient to remove his or her clothing and jewelry, in case it has become contaminated. Washing a chemical burn can be painful, but it flushes the chemical out of the burn, so that it will stop burning the patient. Ideally, the wound should be flushed for 15 to 20 minutes, and if the patient becomes uncomfortable, he or she should be reminded that chemical burns can extend deep into the body if the chemical is not fully removed.

After rinsing, the burn should be allowed to dry, and then covered with a dry, sterile dressing. The dressing should be changed regularly, and the wound should be rinsed with mild antibacterial soap and allowed to air dry after each dressing change. Blisters, scabs, and peeling skin should not be picked at, as this can inhibit healing. The use of creams and ointments is also discouraged, as this can inhibit air circulation at the site of the burn.

Many chemical burns heal just fine with self-care. However, if a wound becomes infected or appears to be healing very slowly, it's a good idea to consult a doctor. Deep chemical burns also require medical treatment, and may even require surgery in some cases to remove dead and dying tissue affected by the burn. If you are injured with chemicals in the workplace, the injury should be reported, and you may be asked to see a doctor to confirm that the burn is healing properly.

It is also possible to neutralize a chemical burn to stop the burning, but people should be careful when doing this. While it is theoretically possible to neutralize acids with bases and vice-versa, an unexpected reaction can occur and cause more harm. People who want to neutralize chemical burns would be well-advised to call a burn center for more information.

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Discuss this Article

anon346107
Post 14

I have a chemical burn on my face, so what should I do?

anon344525
Post 13

Will washing the chemical burn from the eyes with hot water cause a chemical reaction?

anon343520
Post 12

Do toothpaste burns heal quickly?

anon343114
Post 11

I have used face products to get rid of pimples but it seems when I put on the two different products, a chemical reaction took place and damaged my face. There are now red patches and my face seems somewhat shriveled in these are areas. Please give advice on home remedies that will get rid of this quickly. It's urgent.

shagydeep
Post 10

These are really good tips for taking care of a chemical burn. Could these also be effective for a normal fire burn?

shane514
Post 9

I used a magic eraser to remove dye from my back of my upper arm and it kind of rug-burned me and now is scabbed up and is yellow in one spot. The scab has peeled off and it had pus in it. What medicine can I use to treat this and should it be wrapped?

anon280689
Post 7

Can you have a late reaction to a chemical burn? Like three weeks later?

anon235532
Post 6

I work in a lab that does proteomic research. Last week I was washing the equipment from the rehydration buffer and pricked my thumb with one of the tweezers I was using. My finger is still numb over a week later, and when I try to write it burns.

I'm not quite sure what to do, it's after the fact, but I'm just worried I caused a lot of damage. Inside the rehydration buffer is 7M Urea, 2M thiourea, 2 percent ampholytes, DTT, bromophenol blue, and PBS.

anon227848
Post 5

My husband has very dry patches of skin on his left hand, these dry scaly patches get so dry, they start to crack and he says they are very painful. He handles a lot of chemicals with his bare hands. I have told him to use gloves but he sometimes does not listen. I am thinking that the chemicals destroyed his epidermis.

win199
Post 4

@gameaddicted - Thanks for the information and advice. I don't really ever have an excuse to wear make up daily (I live in a remote area and don't get out and about a whole lot) so I will definitely stay away from that product for a while. It is really not a pleasant experience since I normally have flawless skin (not to brag). Thanks for the information on how to treat a chemical burn, though. It was really helpful.

WalrusTusk
Post 3

@win199 I definitely agree with gameaddicted. Chemical burns on the skin are really difficult to deal with whether they are mild or severe. If what you have is really a chemical burn I don't think your skin would just be dry or cracking, you would have pretty much a layer missing because that's what chemical burns do... they burn away skin. Much like fire, you know? I would follow the information found in the article and definitely stay away from that product for a while.

gameaddicted
Post 2

@win199 - I am not sure if you would call that a chemical skin burn or just an allergic reaction. The best thing to do would be to follow the directions in this article (if it's not really serious). You should properly clean the face with a mild cleanser and most likely moisturize after you have completed that step. Since it sounds more like an allergic reaction I wouldn't use that make up for a while or until your problem clears up. Once it's gone, I would go through the process of testing the make up again just to be sure that's what it was that caused your problem in the first place. Hope everything turns out all right your situation really sounds like no fun.

win199
Post 1

I ordered some new make up online through Amazon last week. I was so excited when it got here that I tried it pretty much right away. Everything came out fine and I wore the make up for only a few minutes before showering (I was trying a look I saw online).

Long story short, I tried the make up again in different colors this time and wore it just a few moments longer than before. My face was already raw when I had tried it on (I thought it was from washing), but after I took it off I had all this tight, dry skin around and on my eye. Is it possible to get a chemical burn on the eye from make up?

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