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Chemical burn or reaction

Burn from chemicals

Chemicals that touch skin can lead to a reaction on the skin, throughout the body, or both.

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Burns
First aid kit
Skin layers

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Considerations

Chemical exposure is not always obvious. You should suspect chemical exposure if an otherwise healthy person becomes ill for no apparent reason, particularly if an empty chemical container is found nearby.

Exposure to chemicals at work over a long period of time can cause changing symptoms as the chemical builds up in the person's body.

If the person has a chemical in the eyes, see first aid for eye emergencies.

If the person has swallowed or inhaled a dangerous chemical, call a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Symptoms

Depending on the type of exposure, the symptoms may include:

First Aid

Note: If a chemical gets into the eyes, the eyes should be flushed with water right away. Continue to flush the eyes with running water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical help right away.

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for medical help right away if the person is having difficulty breathing, is having seizures, or is unconscious.

Prevention

Related Information

Eye emergencies
Substance use

References

Levine MD. Chemical injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 57.

Mazzeo AS. Burn care procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 38.

Rao NK, Goldstein MH. Acid and alkali burns. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.26.

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Review Date: 9/23/2019  

Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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