A chemical burn occurs as a result of an irritant, either alkaline or acidic in nature. Also known as caustic burns, chemical burns can occur on the skin or in the eyes. You might feel a reaction taking place on the skin or inside the body when you suffer from a chemical burn. If a person swallows a chemical accidentally, there can be damage caused to the internal organs, and in such cases, the patient must check their mouth for any cut or burns right after. Immediate medical attention must be sought if one suffers from a chemical burn and loses one’s consciousness.
The Types Of Chemical Burns
There are three types of chemical burns depending on the depth and extent of the injury caused by a chemical:
1. Superficial burn: This is the first-degree burn where injury is caused to the epidermis or the uppermost layer of the skin.
2. Partial Thickness Injury / Dermal Injury: This is the second-degree burn that is caused to the dermis or the second layer of the skin.
3. Full Thickness Injury: This is the third-degree burn that injures the subcutaneous tissue or the third layer of the skin.
The Causes Of Chemical Burns
The products that are responsible for chemical burns are either acids or bases. The most common products among them are bleach, car battery acid, ammonia, teeth whitening agents, denture cleaners, and poor chlorination products.
Common Symptoms Of Chemical Burns
The symptoms of chemical burns depend on the method in which the burn takes place. The symptoms of chemical burns that occur from swallowing differ from those that have occurred on the skin.
If one suffers from a chemical burn from swallowing chemicals, these are the symptoms one must look for:
1. Headache and dizziness
2. Irregular beating of the heart
3. Low blood pressure or hypotension
4. Cardiac arrest or a heart attack
5. Shortness of breath or breathlessness
8. Muscle twitches
If a chemical burn has occurred on the skin, the symptoms would be different:
1. Dead skin or blackened skin
2. Redness, burning sensation, or irritation in the affected region
3. Pain or a sense of numbness in the affected region
4. Vision loss or change in vision if the chemical comes in contact with the eyes
First Aid And Treatment
First aid must be taken immediately for chemical burns, and they include removing and washing off the chemicals that have caused the burn. You can do this by rinsing the skin below running water for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse your eyes immediately for at least 20 minutes if your eyes have come in contact with the chemical(s) and rush to the emergency room immediately after you are done rinsing. Remove any jewelry or clothing from the affected area and cover it loosely with a dry and sterile cloth or a dressing.
For a superficial burn, you may take an aspirin, but for serious burns, medical help must be sought. If there is a doubt regarding the toxicity of the chemical, rush to the poison control center and keep the chemical container with yourself.
Majority of the chemical burns are treated by flushing the chemical off the affected region by using water kept at room temperature. However, chemical burns might worsen when they come in contact with water and treating it is very important to avoid any further complications.
Depending on the severity of the burn caused by a chemical, anti-itch medicines, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids are prescribed by physicians. While debridement is done to clean and remove any dirt and dead tissue, skin grafting is also sometimes done to attach healthy skin taken from another part of the body to the chemical burn wound. For severe chemical burns, burn rehabilitation treatment is done. Burn rehabilitation provides pain management, skin replacement, cosmetic surgery, occupational therapy, education on chemical burns, and counseling for the patient once the treatment is over.
The Prevention Of Chemical Burns
Chemical burns can be prevented by taking certain safety measures and precautions:
1. Store chemicals properly and use them safely.
2. Keep them out of reach from children.
3. Take care of warning labels and keep the chemicals in their original containers.
4. Use chemicals in places that are well-ventilated.
5. Purchase only those chemicals that are present in protective containers.
6. Avoid mixing chemicals.
7. Always wear protective clothing or gears while handling chemicals.
8. Keep chemicals away from food and drinks.
Now that you know how you should avoid and treat chemicals and chemical burns, handle them carefully and take care while handling chemicals.