|While the general rules for the treatment of burns are the same, regardless of the type of burn, there are some additional considerations for chemical burns. The key point when dealing with chemicals is not to contaminate yourself. Chemical spills are not always obvious—some very toxic chemicals look like water—so look for sign such as a HAZMAT (hazardous material) label, empty chemical containers, or guidance from bystanders. If in doubt, call 911 rather than approach the injured person yourself. Remember that some household substances, particularly cleaning materials such as oven cleaner, can cause chemical burns.
TREATING CHEMICAL BURNS
- If you feel that you can safely approach the victim, then do so carefully.
- If necessary, wear protective clothing to protect yourself from contamination.
- Ventilate the room if possible because many chemicals affect breathing.
- When cooling the burn with water drains away from both the victim and yourself. It may be necessary to flood the injured part for longer to ensure that the chemical is totally washed away. This take more than 20 minutes.
- Call 911. Make sure you have mentioned that it is a chemical burn so that the additional help can be sent for if necessary and so that any antidotes can be sent with the ambulance.
- If possible, remove contaminated clothes from the victim because this may keep burning, but only do this if you can do it without contaminating yourself or causing the victim more harm.
- Cover the burn with a clean, non-fluffy material as appropriate and tie loosely in place if necessary.
- Treat for shock and reassure the victim until emergency help arrives the scene.
WHAT IF THE CHEMICALS REACTS WITH WATER?
Some industrial chemicals do not react badly with water. Where such chemicals are used, people working with them should have been trained in the use of an antidote. If there is nobody around with the expertise, do not waste time looking for an antidote—apply liberal amounts of water to try to wash the chemical away.
CHEMICAL BURNS TO THE EYE
Chemical burns to the eye can be very serious. Early rinsing of the eye with cold water will help flush away the chemical and reduce scarring.
- Protect yourself, the victim, and bystanders from further contamination.
- Hold the affected eye under cold running water for at least 10 minutes to flush out the chemical, allowing the injured person to blink periodically. You may need to hold the eyelid open. Make sure that the water flow is gentle. Do not allow contaminated water to fall across the good eye and so contaminate that eye also.
- Ask the injured person to hold a non-fluffy sterile or clean pad across the eye, tying it in place if hospital treatment may be delayed.
- Take or send the person to hospital with details of the chemical if possible.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CHEMICAL BURNS TO THE EYE
- Known exposure to the chemical
- Intense pain
- Redness and swelling
- Reluctance or inability to open the eye
- Tears from the eye
FLUSH BURNS TO THE EYE
Caused by looking into very bright light, flash burns damage the surface of the cornea, the transparent front of the eyeball. Recovery can take some time and in some instances the damage can be permanent (for example, if a person has looked at the sun through a telescope without appropriate protection).
- Check the history to rule out chemical burns or a foreign body in the eye.
- Reassure the injured person, and wear gloves to prevent infecting the eye.
- Place pads over both eyes and bandage in place if it will be some time until medical help arrives. Remember that this will effectively blind the person temporarily so stay with her to reassure and guide.
- Take or send the person to hospital because she will need medical attention.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF FLASH BURNS TO THE EYE
- Known exposure to intense light (which may happened some time ago)
- Intense pain
- Feeling that there may be something in the eyes
- Redness and watering
- Both eyes affected
Where there has been any injury to the eye, encourage the injured person to leave contact lenses in place.