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Chemical Burn

British Columbia Specific Information

Burns can damage your skin and other body tissues. Burns can be caused by heat, cold injuries, exposure to chemicals, and electrical injuries. For any of these injuries, it is important that you receive first aid right away to stop further damage and even save your life. For information on first aid for burns, see Burns and Electric Shock Home Treatment.

If you are concerned about a possible chemical burn, call Poison Control right away at 1-800-567-8911 toll-free in British Columbia or 604-682-5050 in Greater Vancouver. If you have an injury caused by a chemical burn, you should see a health care provider right away.

For more information on chemical burns, visit British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre. If you are concerned about a serious burn, call 9-1-1. For more information or if you are not sure whether to contact a health care provider, call 8-1-1 and speak to one of our registered nurses anytime of the day or night.

Topic Overview

Note: If a chemical has beenswallowed that may be a poison or may cause burning in the throat and esophagus, call your local Poison Control Centre immediately for information on treatment. When you call the Poison Control Centre, have the chemical container with you, so you can read the contents label to the Poison Control staff member.

Chemicals can cause skin burns or allergic reactions or can be poisonous. Chemical burns need to be evaluated and treated. If you are unable to reach your doctor immediately, call a Poison Control Centre. Poison Control Centre staff can help determine what treatment is needed.

Most chemical burns are caused by:

  • Acids, such as battery acid, toilet bowl cleaners, or artificial nail primers.
  • Alkalis, such as paint removers, lime, dishwasher powders, or lye. Alkalis usually cause more tissue damage than acids.
  • Metals, such as molten metal compounds used in foundries.
  • Hydrocarbons, such as gasoline or hot tar.

A chemical burn may be serious because of the action of the corrosive or irritating chemicals on the skin. A chemical burn on the skin can be deeper and larger than the burn first appears. If the chemical can be rinsed with water, the burning process can be reduced if the area is rinsed immediately with water. Waiting just a few minutes to rinse the burned area can increase the chance of the burn becoming more serious.

The face, eyes, hands, and feet are the most common body areas burned by chemicals.

Air bags that inflate can cause friction or heat (thermal) burns from the physical impact or chemical burns from the substances in the air bags.

For any chemical burn to the eye, see the topic Burns to the Eye.

Credits

Current as of:
July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine