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Chemical Burns

When to Seek Medical Care continued...

Emergency personnel are trained to assess the extent of a chemical burn, begin treatment, and transport victims to the most appropriate hospital.

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:

  • Number and location of the injured person or people

  • Mechanism or nature of injury (how it happened)

  • Whether emergency personnel can reach the victims (are victims 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

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. 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 eye. Sometimes the best way to get large amounts of water to your eye is to step into the shower.

Medical Treatment

  • 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 if indicated.

  • Pain in 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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