Treating Chemical Burns
Chemical burns need special treatment.
Chemical burns can impact the inside and the outside of the body, but here we’ll discuss external wounds. They come from strong acids or strong bases, also known as alkalies. Generally, a chemical burn is an accident. It can happen at home with strong cleaners or other household supplies, at the workplace with chemicals specific to a job site or even at school in the chemistry classroom. Like all burns, chemical burns vary greatly in severity. Some require hospitalization, while others simply need the same sort of first aid as other wounds.
What to do about a chemical burn
If you have been exposed to a chemical that is burning your skin, the first thing you must do is take off any contaminated clothing and wash the affected area with water for at least 20 minutes. The runoff from this wash should not hit any other part of your body. Research shows that if you do this within 10 minutes of exposure to a chemical, the burn is less severe and the length of time you need to stay in the hospital can be reduced.
Note that chemical burns from elemental metals should not be washed with water, as this can prompt a chemical reaction that will make everything worse. Instead, use mineral oil to soak the area until you can get medical help.
If your burn is minor, simply administer the type of wound care you would for any burn. Call a medical professional for advice if you are not sure how to do this. However, a severe chemical burn will put you in the burn ward of a hospital, where you will be treated as thermal burn patients are, perhaps with the addition of an antidote that can act against the chemical that burned you.
Ongoing wound care for chemical burns
A chemical burn is a wound that shouldn’t be allowed to dry out, so your dressings will probably reflect this after acute care is complete. You will also need to change your dressings frequently to keep the wound clean and prevent infection, perhaps with the aid of topical antibacterial ointments or gels. Finally, you’ll need to know the symptoms of an infected wound and report any of them that you notice in your own wound to a medical professional immediately.
Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients.