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First Aid for Chemical Burns

Last updated Feb. 19, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

A Chemical Burn is a skin reaction that is caused as a result of contact with chemicals.


All Chemical Burns should be evaluated by a trained medical professional, as soon as possible! DO NOT wait! Failure to obtain evaluation as soon as possible may result in serious injury or death. Call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately, if you have experienced severe Chemical Burns.

What is Chemical Burns?

  • A Chemical Burn is a skin reaction that is caused because of contact with, or exposure to certain chemicals. It may occur at home, school labs, or owing to chemical exposure in an industrial setting
  • The condition may be mild or severe, depending on the chemical type involved, the degree of exposure, and body part involved

What are the Causes of Chemical Burns?

The cause factors for Chemical Burns could include:

  • Not following recommended safety practices/procedures associated with chemical use; improper handling of chemicals
  • Mixing chemicals in places lacking proper ventilation
  • Mixing chemicals that are highly reactive
  • Storage of chemicals under unsafe conditions (extreme heat or cold) and faulty containers

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Chemical Burns?

The signs and symptoms of Chemical Burns include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Pain
  • Allergic reaction, such as breaking into hives
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Rash or blisters
  • Shock symptoms, such as a pale appearance and hyperventilation

How is First Aid administered for Chemical Burns?

First Aid tips for Chemical Burns include:

  • Remove the victim away from the  hazardous substance
  • Remove watch, jewelry, or clothes that were in contact with the chemical
  • If the chemical is dry, it should be brushed off and then the burnt skin washed under cool running water
  • If the eyes were exposed, flush the eyes for 15 minutes with cool running water immediately, and seek medical attention
  • Check instructions (label) on the chemical container and follow the procedure listed for cases of exposure
  • In case of minor and/or non-toxic chemical burns, it can then be loosely covered with sterile dressing or cloth. It shall be monitored for any signs of infection
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication appropriately, as instructed (if necessary)
  • Tetanus prophylaxis
  • If there are any signs of infection or the pain does not subside, seek medical attention
  • If you are not sure what is to be done; call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. 

Who should administer First Aid for Chemical Burns?

  • Depending on the extent of the Chemical Burn, the individual himself/herself or someone close by, can administer First Aid
  • Seek medical attention or call 911 if the chemical is known to be toxic, or if the burn involves large areas, or if the burns are on the face, eye, groin, hands, or feet
  • Call 911 immediately if the person is not breathing, is unconscious or appears pale

What is the Prognosis of Chemical Burns?

The prognosis varies based on the potency and toxicity of the chemical, the site and extent of exposure to the chemical.

How can Chemical Burns be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Chemical Burns:

  • Use gloves and apron while working with chemicals
  • Work with chemicals in well ventilated and/or designated areas (e.g. fume hoods in academic settings)
  • Store chemicals in proper containers, under right temperature and humidity conditions
  • Limit unnecessary exposure to chemicals

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Eliminate contact with the chemical that caused the burn immediately
  • Call 9-1-1; if the burn is severe, or the substance is a known toxin, or if there is an allergic reaction
  • Wash the site of exposure with cool running water immediately

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 8, 2013
Last updated: Feb. 19, 2018