Most folks think that acids (like battery acid, aka sulfuric acid) causes the most serious chemical burns. Actually, it is the other end of the pH spectrum that does the most damage. Alkalis like drain cleaners penetrate the skin deeper and remain active longer than acids.

In general, treatment of chemical burns involves the same techniques regardless of the chemical. Some things you must remember:

Never apply water using high pressure, as it will force the chemical deeper into the skin.

Never try to neutralize a chemical, even if you know what it is. The neutralization process may give off heat and other toxic chemicals.

Save the container or the label for the medical professionals.

To treat a person suffering from chemical burns:

  • Have someone call for Emergency Services.
  • Immediately brush away any dry powders (don't use your hands).
  • Begin to flush the burn with clean water, cool if possible.
  • Take steps to avoid the chemical, and make sure you do not let anyone else get in contact with it.
  • Remove the victim's contaminated clothes and jewelry while flushing with water. Cloth can hold chemicals and allow them to continue to damage the skin.
  • After 20 minutes, if still waiting for medical attention, cover the burn with dry, sterile dressings.
  • When medical help arrives, brief them on what you did and provide the container or label.

Taking a First Aid course will help prepare you for emergencies like this.

First Aid

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