What Are Chemical Burns?

Individuals can get chemical burns at home, school or work. Chemical burns can be the result of an accident or as the result of an assault. Usually chemical burns caused from accidents in the home are seldom fatal; they can cause some serious harm. The majority of chemical burns are the result of product misuse when applying hair, skin or nail care products. Workplace chemical burns are more common than chemical burns sustained in the home. Businesses that are manufacturing companies that deal with large amounts of chemicals are more at risk for chemical accidents. School chemical accidents usually result from chemicals in storage, office products, or accidents that occur during chemistry class.

Most chemical burns are the result of strong acids or bases. Chemicals that are dangerous are usually marked and labels contain warnings of expected toxicity. Basic common sense, consumer education and using normal precautions should reduce the risk of receiving a chemical burn.

Household products that can cause chemical burns:


Concrete Mix

Drain or toilet bowl products

Metal cleaners

Pool chlorinators

Any chemical burn, no matter what the agent is should be considered a medical emergency.

The usual location of chemical burns is the eyes, face, legs or arms. Most chemical burns are limited to a small body area and are treated in outpatient care. Certain chemical agents can however; cause deep tissue damage that occurs sometime after the initial contact has been made.

Damage from chemicals have several factors that include: the strength of the agent, the body part, whether it was swallowed, or a direct skin contact, how much of the chemical agent was involved in the contact, if the skin is intact or not, the duration of the exposure, and also how the chemical works.

Symptoms of a chemical burn:

Burning, irritation or redness of the affected skin

Numbness or pain of the affected skin

Blisters or blackened skin at the site of contact

Vision changes if the chemical contact was with the eyes

Coughing or shortness of breath

If the chemical contact was of a severe nature you may develop the following symptoms:

Decrease in blood pressure

Dizziness, faintness, or weakness

Coughing that can be severe

Shortness of breath



Muscle twitching

Irregular heartbeat

Cardiac Arrest

It is very rare for death to occur as the result of a chemical burn, though it can happen.

Chemical burns can be unpredictable. It is very important that the container whenever possible be brought to the emergency room with the patient so that the exact cause of the chemical burn can be identified.

If you are uncertain of the severity of the chemical burn than it is better to treat it as an emergency.

Emergency personnel are trained to know how to assess and treat chemical burns and the appropriate way to transport chemical burn patients. Emergency personnel are also trained to evaluate the need for decontamination of the area where the chemical burn took place.

If reporting a chemical burn to an emergency response phone line have the following information available:

How many individuals the chemical burn affects

The location of the injured burn victims

The mechanism or nature of the burn injury

Name, amount, strength and also the volume of the chemical causing agent that gave the burn. A container should be presented to emergency personnel if possible.

Length of time that the chemical exposure was for those injured.