Most people think of burns as involving a heat source, but that is not always the case. Chemical burns, also referred to as caustic burns, occur when the skin comes in contact with some type of chemical irritant, such as bleach or gasoline. These types of burns are particularly dangerous because toxic fumes can also cause internal damage.
How do chemical burns occur?
Chemical burns occur when your skin is exposed to a corrosive substance, which can be an acid or a base. They can happen anywhere there are chemicals – including the home, work, school, and construction sites. A student may sustain a chemical burn in a chemistry experiment gone wrong; a HAZMAT transport worker may sustain chemical burns in an onsite spill; or a child may sustain chemical burns with the kitchen cleaners under the sink, for example.
In addition to bleach, some of the most dangerous products that cause chemical burns include drain cleaners, paint thinners, ammonia, denture cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, concrete mix, and pool chlorinators. Chemical burns can also originate from chemical weapons such as mustard gas and phosgene oxime.
What are some potential effects of chemical burns?
Like other burns, chemical burns are classified according to standard burn classifications, i.e., first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree burns. They can cause extensive external tissue damage, as well as damage to internal organs and systems.
The symptoms and effects of a chemical burn depend upon several factors including the following.
- The type of chemical and its degree of causticity
- The duration of your exposure to it
- The presence of any open cuts or wounds where contact occurred
- Whether you also inhaled or swallowed the chemical
- The state of the chemical (gas, liquid, or solid)
A lot of people with chemical burns display symptoms such as the following.
- Blackened, dead skin
- Burning and pain in the affected area
- Irritation and redness
- Loss of vision (when the chemical came into contact with your eye)
How are chemical burns treated?
First and foremost, it is essential to remove the chemical and wash it from the skin. Take off any clothing items or jewelry that may have come into contact with it, too. This prevents the burn from spreading. Rinse the area for 10 to 20 minutes to remove any chemical residue.
You can treat superficial chemical burns with over-the-counter pain creams or medicines, but you should see the doctor for anything more serious. Possible treatments for serious chemical burns include debridement, skin grafting, pain management, and cosmetic surgery. The doctor will require basic follow-up checkups to ensure your healing is moving along.
What types of complications should I be aware of?
Complications of chemical burns can include the following.
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of limb
- Muscle damage
- Psychological effects like depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and post-traumatic stress disorder
It is important to trace your burn to the chemical source so that the doctor can understand what s/he is dealing with and how to treat any internal damage. Knowing what the source of the burn is may also be an important factor in determining if you are due any compensation for your injuries.
Misuse of household cleaners by a homeowner, for example, can lead to chemical burns. But in other cases, something beyond the victim’s control leads to the burn. This is the case if a truck carrying hazardous materials is involved in an accident and spills its chemical cargo, causing burn injuries to those exposed to it.
In cases where another party was responsible for the chemical spill or accident, that party might be legally liable for your medical bills, lost wages, and other emotional damages. Call us at 844-549-8774 to speak with a lawyer referral specialist to connect with a lawyer to answer your legal questions and help you pursue compensation for your damages.