Chemical and Electrical Burns


Chemical burns are burn injuries resulting from misuse of products. They can be strong acid or they can result from base liquids. Labels should warn of toxicity level. Chemical burns can occur at home, in the workplace or at school.

Chemicals can cause harm when inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested. These chemicals can enter your body from chemical dust, fumes and gases, solvents, metals, acids and bases and also pesticides.

An irritant or corrosive (toxic property) can cause inflammation, burns and blisters and permanent damage if there is chronic exposure to these chemicals. These chemicals usually affect the eyes, lungs and skin. Examples of chemicals in this toxicity category are ammonia, caustic soda, nitrogen oxides, and also sulphuric acid.

Common household items can result in chemical burns such as bleach, concrete mix, and toilet bowl and drain cleaners, metal cleaners, and pool chlorinators. Other common household products that can cause chemical burns if misused are: hair, skin and nail care products.

Those at most risk for receiving chemical burns are those who work around strong acid or base products at work.

An example of a workplace chemical that can cause skin burns is Auramine (dusts and vapor) can cause inflammation and burns. Some workplace liquid chemicals can also give off vapors, which can then be inhaled by the workers or absorbed through their skin. Certain vapors can be explosive.

Workers should always wash/shower and change work clothes before leaving work to prevent dangerous chemicals from being brought home. If work clothes are washed at home they should be washed separate from the family wash.

It is important to know what to do to prevent and also to treat chemical and electrical burns.

Chemical and electrical burns are treated differently from thermal burns. Flush the cause of the chemical burn by running cool water over the area for 20 minute or more. If the chemical happens to be a powder, than brush it off the skin before flushing with water.

Remove any clothing or jewelry that has been contaminated with the chemical.

Relieve pain by placing a cool, wet cloth over the burned skin.

Wrap the burned skin loosely in a sterile dressing or a clean cloth.

Run cool water over the skin again, if the individual experiences increased burning after the initial flushing of water.

Normally, minor chemical burns will need no more than the above first aid instructions for healing.


Electrical burns may not always have visual damage on the skin’s outer layer. The damage caused by electricity is usually deep into the skin’s tissue, organs or internal damage. Electrical currents pass through the human body such as when a jolt of electricity makes contact through an appliance cord, an electrical outlet or by lightning strike.

Someone sticking a knife into a plugged-in-toaster, or dropping an electrical appliance into water, or when a child chews or sucks on an electrical cord can cause electrical burns.

The signs and symptoms of an electrical burn differ depending on the degree of burn. First-degree electrical burns look like reddened skin that then turns white when touched, and also skin that is painful to touch. Second-degree electrical burns are deeper, more painful and may have blisters that are visible. Third-degree electrical burns are serious, deep, and may have the appearance of white, leathery skin that is NOT tender to touch. You may notice swelling of the skin in the affected area. Those with third-degree electrical burns may also suffer from headaches, dizziness and fever.