Flash burns come from brief exposure to flames, heat, electricity, chemicals, or UV radiation. There are two main types of flash burns:

Corneal flash burns

These flash burns affect the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the layer that sits over the iris (the colored portion of the eye). A corneal flash burn occurs when the cornea suffers severe damage from overexposure to ultraviolet light. Causes of corneal flash burns may include:

  • Sun exposure – Looking at or in the direction of the sun may put the cornea at risk of damage.
  • Reflection – Intense reflection of the sun off sand, snow, and water can also damage the cornea. These injuries may occur while skiing, boating, or playing watersports.
  • Welding torches – The intense light from welding equipment may damage the cornea too.
  • Other sources of UV light – This may include tanning beds, halogen lamps, photographer flood lamps, and more.

Symptoms may include pain and sensitivity to light, as well as teary eyes, bloodshot eyes, and blurry vision.

Skin flash burns

Flash burns are common causes of first-degree burns. Just about any quick source of energy may cause a flash burn on the skin. Common culprits are touching a hot object (stove, curling iron, etc.), flames (firefighters and chefs may be at risk), electrical shock, or exposure to chemicals.

How do I treat flash burns?

Treatment for a flash burn will depend on the severity (first-, second-, third-, or fourth-degree), location or the burn (cornea, skin), and type of burn (e.g., contact, flame, chemical, etc.).

  • Corneal flash burn treatment: Home care may include artificial tears and ointments to soothe discomfort, sunglasses to relieve light sensitivity, and eye guards (patches) to protect the eye. Medication to relieve pain or relax the eye may be necessary in some cases, while some patients may require surgery.
  • Skin flash burn treatment: Treating a skin flash burn is similar to treating any other skin burn. Running the burn under cool (not cold) water may provide some relief for minor burns. Topical ointments like Aloe vera may provide relief too, and some patients may take over-the-counter pain relievers. Serious burns may require skin grafts, prescription medication, and other more advanced treatment.

Before starting any treatment, including over-the-counter or alternative care options, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

Should I see a doctor for my flash burn?

You may not need to see a doctor if you suffer a minor flash burn. Large burns or serious burns (second-degree and higher) require medical attention. Third- and fourth-degree burns are a medical emergency and require immediate assistance.

Further, you should see a doctor for corneal flash burns if you experience any of the following:

  • Changes in vision (e.g., blurry vision, seeing spots, flashing light)
  • Eye pain that gets worse
  • Intense light sensitivity

How can I prevent flash burns?

Eye protection

When welding or doing other activities that involve UV radiation and bright flashes, wear proper eye protection. While some people wear only goggles, since welding can throw sparks that burn on contact, welding helmets are recommended over goggles. When working with chemicals, proper eye protection can prevent chemicals from splattering into the eyes and causing corneal flash burns.

Skin protection

Flame-resistant gloves and clothing can protect the skin when working around UV radiation, sparks, and flames. Waterproof gloves, eye and face protection and clothing can protect the skin when working with chemicals that can cause flash burns with even brief contact.

Many flash burns happen in the kitchen. Something as simple as bumping against a hot pan on the stovetop can cause a thermal flash burn on the skin. Always wear oven mitts and be mindful of steam and hot pots and pans when cooking at home. Chefs and anybody working in a kitchen should have access to burn-preventing equipment too.

Do flash burns warrant legal action?

If another person or party caused or contributed to your flash burn, you may have grounds to take legal action. For example, somebody injured at work can file a workers’ compensation claim. Or a restaurant patron who touches a piping hot plate may take legal action if the restaurant did not warn that the plate was hot.

A minor flash burn that causes nothing more than mild pain and redness around the burn site probably does not warrant taking legal action. But large burns and serious burns may bring extensive medical bills, lost wages, and other damages for which injured people can seek financial compensation.

But first, you will need to prove liability and the value of your damages. Call 844-549-8774 to talk with our lawyer referral specialists who can help you find a burn injury lawyer to help with your case.