Chemical burns occur as a result of aggressive exposure to chemicals on the skin or mucous membranes.

In some cases, signs of chemical burns of the skin occur directly after the burn, in others only after several hours or days.

The danger is that the damage and destruction of tissue are able to occur much later after the first contact with the chemical agent; the damaged area can continue the absorption of the substance.

There are three degrees of chemical burns depending on the duration of action of the chemical, its temperature, the place of its maximum concentration, the nature of effects on tissue:

  • First degree is redness (or erythema);
  • Second degree – blistering;
  • Third degree – necrosis.

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Symptoms of Chemical Burns of the Skin

The main symptoms of chemical burns are:

  • Sodium_hydroxide_burn skin Chemical Skin Burns: Causes and Consequences Sodium hydroxide burn 239x300The skin changes color to bright red or pale blue;
  • Cough, nausea and vomiting;
  • Weakness, dizziness, loss of consciousness;
  • Blisters, swelling, discomfort of the skin in areas of exposure to the chemical;
  • Blurred vision (in case of the contact with the chemical agent in the eye area);
  • Itching or rash;
  • Shortness of breath and pain in the abdomen.

In the absence of or failure to provide timely and qualified medical aid, different complications could also appear, for example, scar tissue, scabs of various shades and colors (from black and brown to white), sepsis, shock.


What Cause Chemical Burns:

  • Acid (the most powerful striking action has a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, the so – called Aqua Regia, a less pronounced impact from sulfuric, hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, acetic and other acids);
  • Lye (caustic potash, caustic soda, etc.);
  • Phosphorus;
  • Salts of some heavy metals (mercuric chloride, zinc chloride, copper sulfate, silver nitrate, etc.);
  • Other substances which have cauterizing effect (kerosene, gasoline, bitumen, some volatile oils, etc.).

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At home chemical burns often occur during incorrect or careless use of bleach, a variety of pipe cleaners or metals, concrete mixes, chlorine agents, etc.

Chemical Burn of the Skin: Consequences

The damaging effects of acids and alkalis is due to the ability to take water from tissues, the ability to actively enter into chemical compounds and cause coagulation of protein, destruction of the colloid state in the cells.

And the destructive power of acids is directly related to their concentration: weak solutions can cause mild damage to the dermal layers of the skin, but prolonged exposure can cause the appearance of blisters. Acids are also able to cause third degree chemical burns.

The negative impact of alkalis on the tissues is somewhat slower than with acids. They do not cause the coagulation of proteins but destroy (dissolve): they penetrate deep into the tissue and hydrolyze fats. As a rule, the alkali of higher concentration is stronger.

Phosphorus burns due to the ability of phosphorus to be easily ignited (including spontaneous combustion), are often combined with thermal burns and are very sharp and quite painful. In addition, certain types of phosphorus are poisonous or toxic, which increases their destructive effect on tissue.

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Chemical burns, caused by salts of heavy metals (like burns from acids), lead to tissue dehydration and coagulation of proteins. The result is the formation of crust of dead tissue that impedes a negative effect on deeper layers.

It should be noted that the chemicals have a more harmful effect on the mucous membranes than on the skin. In other words, chemical burns to the eyes or esophagus represent the most severe form of chemical burns, often accompanied by various complications (including bleeding).

Chemical Skin Burns: Safety Precautions

In order to prevent chemical burns it is necessary to observe security measures:

  • Do not leave toxic or corrosive substances without supervision;
  • Keep containers with these substances tightly sealed and provide them with appropriate warning labels;
  • Do not store chemicals near food or medicines;
  • Do not stir household cleaning products containing even small amounts of toxic substances by yourself;
  • Ventilate the room thoroughly after using chemical products, which are potentially capable of releasing fumes.