Acid products include toilet cleaners, battery acid, bleach,
chemicals used in industry for crystal etching, and chemicals that are added to
gas. Acid solids and liquids can cause injury, depending on the type, the
strength, and the length of time the acid is in contact with the body. The
damage is usually kept to the area of contact and does not usually cause damage
deep in the tissue.
When a chemical burn occurs, find out what chemical caused the burn.
Call a Poison Control Center immediately for more
information about how to treat the burn. When you call the Poison Control
Center, have the chemical container with you, so you can read the contents
label to the Poison Control staff member.
Most chemical burns are treated first by rinsing (flushing) the
chemical off your body with a large amount of cool water, but not all chemicals
are treated this way. It is important to treat the burn correctly to avoid
Chemical burns rinsed with water
Immediately rinse with a large amount of cool
water. Rinsing within 1 minute of the burn can reduce the risk of
Flush the area for at least 20 minutes.
Do not use a hard spray of water, because
it can damage the burned area.
Have the person with the burn remove
the chemical substance if he or she is able.
Put on gloves to
protect yourself from the chemical, if you need to remove it.
As you flush the area, take off any clothing or
jewelry that has the chemical on it.
If the area still has a
burning sensation after 20 minutes, flush the area again with flowing water for
10 to 15 minutes.
Chemical burns not rinsed with water
Some acid burns are made worse if rinsed (flushed) with
Carbolic acid or phenol
does not mix with water, so use alcohol first to flush the chemical off the
skin and then flush with water. If alcohol is not available, flush with a large
amount of water. Do not flush the eye with alcohol.
Sulfuric acid is flushed with a mild, soapy solution if the
burns are not severe. Sulfuric acid feels hot when water is added to the acid,
but it is better to flush the area and not leave the acid on the
Hydrofluoric acid is flushed with a
bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) solution. (Use a small amount of water to
make the solution.) Then flush with a large amount of water. Burns from this acid
may not show at first, so flush the area even if a burn is not seen. Do not
flush the eye with a baking soda solution.
Metal compounds are covered with mineral oil.
The most important first aid for a chemical in the eye is to immediately flush the substance out with large amounts of
water to reduce the chance of serious eye damage. For any chemical burn to the
eye, see the topic Burns to the Eye.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.