Bleach burns are a serious condition. They are technically considered a chemical burn. Bleach and other strong cleaners can cause serious damage to your skin unless you take precautions to keep yourself safe. If you’ve already received a bleach burn, you may be able to take care of the injury at home.
Bleach burns look similar to standard burns. Just like a burn caused by heat, bleach burns can include significant pain, redness, swelling, blistering, or more serious skin damage.
All types of burn treatments involve two stages of care: immediate treatment, and treatment as it heals. The goal of immediate treatment is to prevent the burn from getting worse. Long-term care as the burn heals is intended to minimize pain and keep the burn from scarring or getting infected. Both stages of treatment are important to help keep you healthy and in as little pain as possible.
Remedies and Treatments for Bleach Burns
Bleach burns can sometimes act similarly to sunburns, appearing hours after the damage has been done. Because of this, it’s possible to have bleach on your skin for a long time without realizing that it is hurting you. This makes treating bleach burns immediately a priority because it’s likely that they will continue to get worse for a while before they get better.
- As soon as you realize bleach is on your skin, rinse it off. This may be when you first get the bleach on you, or it may be when you develop a bleach burn.
- Once the burn has been thoroughly rinsed, wash it and the surrounding area. You can use a soft, lint-free cloth and a little hand soap to clean it.
- Finally, bandage the burn with a non-stick bandage to protect it from the elements.
- Change the bandage twice a day, or more often if it gets wet or dirty.
Burns can be painful. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or high-dose aspirin can help reduce your pain and any swelling around the burn. Follow the instructions on the label when it comes to dosage. If NSAIDs are not enough to manage your pain, reach out to your physician for advice.
Bleach burns may take up to two weeks to fully heal. During this period, your burn may blister. Don’t pop blisters if they form; these blisters protect delicate tissue and popping them may lead to infections. Instead, leave the blister alone. If it does pop, gently clean the area and bandage it again to protect the skin underneath.
Creams like neosporin can help your burn heal, especially if blisters form and break. These creams help keep your burn from drying out and protect it from bacteria. Applying a thin layer of neosporin when you change your bandage can help your burn heal faster and with less pain.
You can also apply aloe to a bleach burn as it heals. Aloe may help speed the healing of your burn as long as it is relatively minor. Wash your burn carefully, then apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to the burn and bandage it again. This will keep your burn safe and keep the aloe in contact with your skin.
Finally, cold packs can also help relieve pain while the burn is healing. Ice can actually make burns heal less effectively, but cool water can help cool the burn. Applying a cool, wet compress to the burn when you change bandages can help keep the burn clean and reduce inflammation.
When to See a Doctor
No matter what the cause, burns can be serious injuries. In some cases, you should see a doctor for a bleach burn. If any of the following is true about your bleach burn, call your doctor immediately:
- The burn feels deep
- The burn is larger than three inches wide
- The burn covers any significant portion of your face, hands, feet, major joints, or genitalia
Even if the initial burn was reasonably treatable at home, burns can still get infected or turn out to be more serious than you anticipated. If you notice any of the following symptoms in the days after getting a burn, you need immediate treatment from a physician. These may be signs of a dangerous infection:
- The burn appears to be getting worse, not better, over time
- You develop a fever
- Pus is draining from the burn
- Red streaks are forming around the burn
If you swallow bleach or get bleach in your eyes, call 911 immediately.