When to Seek Medical Care continued...
Emergency officials also may determine the need for more involved decontamination of both you and the accident site prior to going to the hospital. When you contact 911, tell the dispatcher as much of the following information as possible:
- How many people are injured and the location where they are
- How the injury happened
- Whether emergency personnel can reach the victims or whether the victims are trapped
- Name, strength, and volume or quantity of the chemical causing the burn (Give a container of the chemical to emergency personnel, if possible.)
- Length of time of contact with the chemical
Always seek emergency care for any burn that is larger than 3 inches in diameter or is very deep. Also seek emergency care for any chemical burns involving the face, eyes, groin, hands, feet, or buttocks or if it is over a joint.
Even if the exposure was very small and you have completed basic first aid, call your doctor to review the injury and the chemical involved and to make sure no further emergency treatment is needed. The doctor can arrange appropriate treatment or will direct you to go to a hospital's Emergency Department. If you're the person with the burn, ask your doctor if you need a tetanus shot.
Exams and Tests
In the emergency department, you can expect the following:
- Initial evaluation and stabilization
- Rapid evaluation of the chemical
- Determination of the extent of injury
- Blood tests and other studies to determine if you should be admitted to the hospital
Chemical Burn Treatment
Most people with chemical burns do not need to be admitted. Most can go home after arranging follow-up care with their doctor. In severe cases, however, they may need to be admitted to a hospital.
Self-Care at Home
Begin basic first aid. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 if you do not know whther the chemical is toxic.
Immediately call 911 if you have a severe injury, any shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, or other symptoms throughout your body. If you are aiding an injured person with these symptoms, lay the person down and immediately call 911.
- Remove yourself or the victim from the accident area.
- Remove any contaminated clothing.
- Wash the injured area to dilute or remove the substance, using large volumes of water. Wash for at least 20 minutes, taking care not to allow runoff to contact unaffected parts of your body. Gently brush away any solid materials, again avoiding unaffected body surfaces.
- Especially wash away any chemical in your or the victim's eye. Sometimes the best way to get large amounts of water to your eye is to step into the shower.
- IV fluids may be needed to normalize blood pressure and heart rate.
- The IV access may also be used for any medications needed to treat pain or protect against infection.
- Decontamination will begin (likely water irrigation).
- You will be given any antidote to counteract the chemical, if appropriate.
- Antibiotics often are not needed for minor chemical burns.
- Wounds will be cleaned and bandaged with medicated creams and sterile wraps as needed.
- Consultation with other medical specialists may be done.
- Pain from a burn can often be severe. Adequate pain control will be addressed by your doctor.
- If there is any indication of breathing problems, a breathing tube may be placed in your airway to help.
- If needed, a tetanus booster will be given.