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First Aid Guide: Chemical Burns

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Chemical Burns (CB) can leave you in agony and scar you for life. In this article, we'll discuss how to handle CB like a pro with our step-by-step guide on administering first aid for it. From identifying the types of chemicals that cause burns to preventing them from happening in the first place, we've got you covered. 




What are Chemical Burns?

Chemical Burns (CB) are injuries that can be caused by the skin or eyes being exposed to certain chemicals, including acids, alkalis, and solvents. In contrast to thermal burns caused by heat, CB can be caused by a diverse range of substances and their severity can vary depending on the type of chemical and duration of exposure. They can inflict substantial damage to the skin and underlying tissues and have the potential to cause permanent scarring.

Causes and types of Chemical Burns

The causes of Chemical Burns can be one among the following.

  • CB can result from contact with strong acids, strong bases, oxidising agents, and corrosive substances, which can cause severe damage to the skin or eyes.

  • Improper handling of chemicals such as spilling them on the skin or inhaling toxic fumes can lead to CB as well.

  • Workers in industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, and construction may be at risk of CB due to exposure to hazardous chemicals, and accidents can occur due to improper handling of chemicals.

  • Ingesting a corrosive substance accidentally can also cause CB, which may be life-threatening.

Chemical Burns can be classified into three types based on their severity. 

  • First-degree affects the outermost layer of skin, causing redness, pain, and swelling. 

  • Second-degree extends into the underlying layers of skin, resulting in blistering, severe pain, and swelling. 

  • Third-degree are the most severe, as they damage all skin layers and underlying tissue, leading to blackened or charred skin, intense pain, and possible nerve damage.

Common symptoms associated with Chemical Burns

CB can result in various symptoms that vary depending on the chemical involved and the severity of the burn. The following are some of the common symptoms associated with Chemical Burns.

  • Redness and discomfort: CB can lead to redness, discomfort, and irritation in the affected area.

  • Pain and burning sensation: They may cause severe pain and a burning sensation on the skin or in the eyes.

  • Swelling: They can cause the affected area to become swollen or inflamed.

  • Blisters: Second-degree CB can cause the formation of blisters filled with fluid.

  • Skin discoloration: Third-degree CB can lead to skin discoloration such as blackening or charring.

  • Respiratory problems: Inhaling toxic chemicals or fumes can result in breathing difficulties, coughing, or wheezing.

  • Gastrointestinal issues: Accidental ingestion of chemicals can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

If you experience any symptoms of a CB, seek medical attention right away.

Quick action: First-aid for Chemical Burns

Time is of the essence when dealing with CB, so act quickly and confidently. Don't wait for medical assistance to arrive before administering first aid. Every second counts when it comes to minimising damage and reducing pain. Here’s what to do.

  • Wear protective gear: Before providing first aid, make sure you're wearing gloves and other protective gear, if available. This will help prevent further contamination and protect you from the chemical.

  • Remove the chemical source: Get rid of anything that's still on the skin or clothing that's been contaminated.

  • Don't apply any creams, ointments, or other substances to the affected area: These can trap the chemical and worsen the damage. And don't break any blisters that may have formed, as this can increase the risk of infection.

  • Flush with water: The best way to dilute and remove the chemical is to wash it away with plenty of cool water. Keep the water flowing for at least 20 minutes, and make sure it's running away from unaffected skin.

  • Elevate the affected area: If the chemical burn is on a limb, elevate it above heart level to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Seek medical attention: Don't delay, even if the burn seems minor. CB can cause long-term damage, so get professional help as soon as possible.

Preventing Chemical Burns

CB are painful and potentially life-changing injuries that can be easily prevented. Here's how.

  • Don't skip the gear: Gloves, goggles, and a face mask can make all the difference between a safe experience and a painful one.

  • Handle chemicals with care: Read and follow the instructions carefully. Don't mix different chemicals, and make sure you're working in a well-ventilated area.

  • Take breaks: Chemical exposure can build up over time, so it's important to take breaks and give yourself time to breathe fresh air. This is particularly important if you're working with chemicals in a poorly ventilated area.

  • Store chemicals safely: Keep them in their original containers, sealed tightly, and clearly labelled. Keep them away from children, pets, and open flames.

  • Check expiration dates: Chemicals can degrade over time, becoming more dangerous or less effective. Always check the expiration date on the container before using any chemicals, and dispose of any expired chemicals safely.

  • Be prepared for emergencies: Keep a chemical burn kit and other first aid supplies on hand. Know who to call in case of an emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Chemical Burns.


Can I use ice to treat a Chemical Burn?

No, you should not use ice to treat a Chemical Burn. Using ice can cause further damage to the skin and tissue, and can also worsen the chemical reaction.

What should I do if I get a Chemical Burn?

If you get a CB, the first step is to flush the affected area with cool, running water for at least 20 minutes. Remove any contaminated clothing, jewellery, or accessories. Cover the affected area with a clean, dry cloth or dressing. Seek medical help immediately.

Is it necessary to remove clothing that is stuck to the skin?

Yes, it is important to remove any clothing or accessories that are stuck to the skin, as they may contain the chemical that caused the burn. However, it is important to remove the clothing gently to avoid further damage to the skin.

How do I prevent Chemical Burns from occurring?

To prevent Chemical Burns, always wear appropriate protective gear when handling hazardous chemicals, such as gloves, goggles, and a lab coat. Make sure to read and understand the safety instructions and warnings for all chemicals you work with, and store them properly in a well-ventilated area.

Should I apply ointments or creams to a chemical burn?

No, you should not apply ointments or creams to a Chemical Burn. These substances can trap the chemical against the skin and make the burn worse. Instead, cover the affected area with a clean, dry cloth or dressing, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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