Chemical Burn

Many chemicals can burn the skin. A chemical burn should be flushed with cool water and checked by an emergency caregiver. Your skin is a natural barrier to infection. It is the largest organ of your body. Burns damage this natural protection. To help prevent infection, it is very important to follow your caregiver's instructions in the care of your burn.

Many industrial chemicals may cause burns. These chemicals include acids, alkalis, and organic compounds such as petroleum, phenol, bitumen, tar, and grease.

When acids come in contact with the skin, they cause an immediate change in the skin. Acid burns produce significant pain and form a scab (eschar). Usually, the immediate skin changes are the only damage from an acid burn. However, exposure to formic acid, chromic acid, or hydrofluoric acid may affect the whole body and may even be life-threatening.

Alkalis include lye, cement, lime, and many chemicals with "hydroxide" in their name. An alkali burn may be less apparent than an acid burn at first. However, alkalis may cause greater tissue damage. It is important to be aware of any chemicals you are using. Treat any exposure to skin, eyes, or mucous membranes (nose, mouth, throat) as a potential emergency.


  • ExitCare ImageAvoid exposure to toxic chemicals that can cause burns.

  • Store chemicals out of the reach of children.

  • Use protective gloves when handling dangerous chemicals.


  • Wash your hands well before changing your bandage.

  • Change your bandage as often as directed by your caregiver.

  • Remove the old bandage. If the bandage sticks, you may soak it off with cool, clean water.

  • Cleanse the burn thoroughly but gently with mild soap and water.

  • Pat the area dry with a clean, dry cloth.

  • Apply a thin layer of antibacterial cream to the burn.

  • Apply a clean bandage as instructed by your caregiver.

  • Keep the bandage as clean and dry as possible.

  • Elevate the affected area for the first 24 hours, then as instructed by your caregiver.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments. This is important. This is how your caregiver can tell if your treatment is working.


  • You develop excessive pain.

  • You develop redness, tenderness, swelling, or red streaks near the burn.

  • The burned area develops yellowish-white fluid (pus) or a bad smell.

  • You have a fever.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.