Chemical burns usually happen when the skin comes into contact with alkaline substances or acids. There are many products around the house that can cause a chemical burn, such as lye in a cleaner to open your drain, sulfuric acid in a disinfectant for your toilet bowl and phenols in most household cleaning products. When these products come into direct contact with the skin, the product can cause a chemical burn.
Determine the Burn Degree
There are three burn stages that determine the depth of the burn injury. A first-degree burn affects only the top layer of the skin leaving a mild burn. Symptoms of this type of burn are the burn area swelling and being painful but not immediately blistering. This type of burn can be treated with an antibiotic cream. Second-degree burns penetrate the middle layer of skin, with symptoms being redness, swelilng, pain and blistering. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Third-degree burns are the worst type, where the burn penetrates to and through the third layer of skin. With a third-degree burn, there is severe damage to the nerves, so the burn is not painful. The skin becomes discolored and has a leather-like appearance. Seek emergency medical attention for this stage of burn as it can lead to life-threatening issues if not treated immediately.
In most cases, the top layer of the skin is affected when using these products, but in some cases a severe burn on the surface skin can penetrate deeper, causing damage to muscle and fatty tissue. The longer the chemical stays on the skin the deeper the burn can penetrate into the skin. It is important to remove any clothing cautiously that may be contaminated. Wash the area immediately with cool clean water and continue to rinse for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the chemical. If you get any of the chemical in your eyes, wash with cool clean water and seek medical attention as quickly as possible. An exception to flushing would be if you were to come into contact with metal sodium which is an industrial chemical. This chemical will react to water and make the burn worse if water is applied. In this particular case, seek emergency medical treatment at once.
As with all burns, blistering is part of the healing process and blisters will break on their own when ready. Do not prick the blister, as it could cause an infection to develop. As the blisters break, dab the area with a clean tissue or cloth and keep it as clean as possible. Burns are the most painful injury possible and are the most susceptible condition there is for infection. Keep burn areas clean and as dry as possible. If a fever develops or the area appears to be changing color or swelling, contact your doctor immediately.