Topic Overview

Note: If a chemical has been
swallowed that may be a poison or may cause burning in
the throat and
esophagus, call your local Poison Control Center or the National Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) immediately for information on treatment. When you call
the Poison Control Center, have the chemical container with you, so you can
read the contents label to the Poison Control staff member.

Chemicals can cause
skin burns or allergic reactions or can be poisonous. Chemical burns need to be
evaluated and treated. If you are unable to reach your doctor
immediately, call a Poison Control Center. Poison Control Center staff can help
determine what treatment is needed.

Most chemical burns are caused

  • Acids, such as battery acid, toilet
    bowl cleaners, or artificial nail primers.
  • Alkalis, such as
    paint removers, lime, dishwasher powders, or lye. Alkalis usually cause more
    tissue damage than acids.
  • Metals, such as molten metal compounds
    used in foundries.
  • Hydrocarbons, such as gasoline or hot

A chemical burn may be serious because of the action of the
corrosive or irritating chemicals on the skin. A chemical burn on the skin can
be deeper and larger than the burn first appears. If the chemical can be rinsed
with water, the burning process can be reduced if the area is rinsed
immediately with water. Waiting just a few minutes to rinse the burned area can
increase the chance of the burn becoming more serious.

The face,
eyes, hands, and feet are the most common body areas burned by

Air bags that inflate can cause friction or heat
(thermal) burns from the physical impact or chemical burns from the substances
in the air bags.

For any chemical burn to the eye, see the topic
Burns to the Eye.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O’Connor, MD – Emergency Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017