Chemical burns

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Chemical burns typically occur once eyes or skin gets in contact with certain irritants such as bases or acids. The chemicals that get into contact with the skin can cause a reaction on the affected are or within the body. These burns can affect the internal organs if they are swallowed. Once an individual swallows a chemical, always check the mouth for cuts or burns. Immediately call the poison control center or go to the nearest emergency department. Avoid giving anything by mouth unless instructed by a healthcare professional. In case the individual is unconscious, call for emergency assistance right away.

chemical burns
A chemical burn on the skin must be cooled with running water.

Causes of chemical burns

Majority of chemical burns are caused by direct contact with bases and acids. Take note that strong acids can lead to severe burns. Chemical burns caused by bases and acids are also called as caustic burns. These burns can happen at work, home, school or in any location where chemicals are present. Common products that can cause chemical burns include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Car battery acid
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Pool chlorinating products
  • Cleaning products for dentures
  • Teeth whitening agents

Who are at risk for chemical burns?

Individuals who are at danger for burns caused by chemicals are young children, seniors and the incapacitated because they could not properly handle chemicals. Chemical burns can be caused by accident or simply not following the correct safety measures when utilizing chemicals. Individuals who have limited mobility are also at high risk for these burns if they are handling chemicals without guidance or assistance.

Symptoms of chemical burns

The symptoms of chemical burns tend to vary depending on the how the burn was incurred. Those that are caused by swallowing the chemical are treated in a different way than burns on the skin. The symptoms usually depend on certain factors such as length of contact, if swallowed or inhaled, amount of chemical, location of contact, if skin was intact upon contact, concentration and strength of chemical and its form whether liquid, gas or solid.

Common symptoms of chemical burns include:
  • Dead or blackened skin
  • Numbness or pain in the affected area
  • Irritation or burning sensation in the affected area
  • Changes or loss of vision if chemical enters the eyes.
Chemicals that are swallowed have the following symptoms:
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or coughing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest

How chemical burns are treated

If possible, the first aid measures must be provided right away. Initially, you have to remove the chemical that caused the burn by rinsing the skin under running water for 10-20 minutes. In case the chemical entered the eyes, rinse continuously for 20 minutes before seeking medical care.

Clothing or jewelry that is contaminated by the chemical must be removed. The burned area must be wrapped loosely if possible with a clean cloth or dry sterile dressing. For superficial burns, over-the-counter pain medications can be given for pain relief. As for severe burns, it is important to go directly to the emergency department at the nearest hospital.

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