How to care for chemical burns

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Being exposed to chemicals can trigger a skin reaction that can manifest as a rash or burn that might become severe in some cases. In most cases, a chemical burn strikingly resembles a heat burn and treated in the same way. Since chemical burns typically occur at home, it is vital that you know how to care for one and when to seek medical attention in case it is a severe one or could not be remedied with home measures.

What are the symptoms?

A chemical burn or rash can develop in the region that was exposed to the chemical. In most cases, it can manifest as a reddened area on the skin or even blisters in severe cases. The skin has the tendency to peel or break out in hives.

The skin can feel sore or starts to itch. A chemical burn can also become sore either right away or a few hours after the initial exposure. There are certain types of chemical burns that cause the skin to turn black in color or cause extensive tissue damage.

Common causes

Various types of chemicals can cause chemical burns. The following are the common chemicals that can cause burns.

  • Acids such as swimming pool cleaners
  • Oxidizers such as chlorine
  • Cement
  • Drain cleaners
  • Gasoline
  • Lime

Remember that the solution that causes a chemical burn can either be basic or acidic. Most cases of chemical burns occur from unintentional exposure to chemicals used in the household.

First aid for chemical burns

Proper first aid must be given right after sustaining a chemical burn. All traces of the chemical must be removed from the surface of the skin as well as jewelry or clothing that was exposed to the chemical. The burned skin must be rinsed in cool water for 15-20 minutes.

Chemical burns
All traces of the chemical must be removed from the surface of the skin as well as jewelry or clothing that was exposed to the chemical.

The burns that are caused by potassium, lithium, magnesium and sodium must not be rinsed but immersed in mineral oil. Cover or wrap the burned area using sterile gauze.

Medical care

In case the burn is a severe one, the indications of blistering or damaged tissue require medical attention. During the assessment, the doctor will determine what caused by the burn and the first aid measures that were used. The doctor might clean the wound and apply a neutralizing substance. The burn might be covered with a protective dressing and apply a topical antibiotic cream to prevent secondary infections from developing.


Since most cases of chemical burns are due to exposure to household chemicals, the prevention involves proper storage and use of these chemicals. Always bear in mind that household chemicals must be stored in their original container.

When cleaning using chemicals, gloves must be used. Chemicals should not be combined and must only be used based on the instructions on the packaging. If there are young children in the house, it is important to store potentially dangerous chemicals in an unreachable location such as a locked cabinet.

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