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Chemical Burns

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When to Seek Medical Care

Any chemical burn can be a legitimate reason to summon emergency medical help. Always err on the side of safety and call 911 if you don't know how severe the injury is or whether or not the person is medically stable. Also call 911 if you have any concerns about a chemical injury.

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:

  • 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.

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