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 content label to the Poison Control staff member. The Poison Control
Center can help determine what steps to take next.

Most chemical burns
of the skin are treated first by rinsing (flushing) the chemical off your body
with a large amount of room temperature water, but not all chemicals are
treated this way. It is important to treat the burn correctly to avoid further
complications.

Chemical burns rinsed with water

  • Flush the area for at least 20 minutes.
    • Do not use a hard spray of water, because
      it can damage the burned area.
    • Have the person with the burn remove
      the chemical substance if he or she is able.
    • Put on gloves to
      protect yourself from the chemical, if you need to remove it.
  • As you flush the area, take off any clothing or
    jewelry that has the chemical on it.
  • If the area still has a
    burning sensation after 20 minutes, flush the area again with flowing water for
    10 to 15 minutes.

Hydrofluoric acid is flushed with a large amount of water and treated with calcium gluconate. You need immediate medical care.

Chemical burns not rinsed with water

Some chemical
burns are made worse if rinsed (flushed) with water.

  • Carbolic acid or phenol
    does not mix with water, so use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol first to flush the
    chemical off the skin and then flush with water. If alcohol is not available,
    flush with a large amount of water. Do not flush the eye with
    alcohol.
  • Sulfuric acid is flushed with a
    mild, soapy solution if the burns are not severe. Sulfuric acid feels hot when
    water is added to the acid, but it is better to flush the area and not leave
    the acid on the skin.
  • Dry powders, such as dry lime, are brushed
    away first, because adding water can make a liquid that burns. After the powder
    is brushed away, flush with water for 20 minutes.
  • Metal compounds are covered with mineral
    oil.

The most important first aid for a chemical in the eye is to immediately flush the substance out
with large amounts of water to reduce the chance of serious eye damage. For any
chemical burn to the eye, see the topic Burns to the Eye.

If
evaluation by your doctor is necessary, take the chemical
container with you.

Related Information

Credits

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