Immediately Call Emergency Services if Severe
Immediately call emergency services if you experience extensive chemical burn exposure. Symptoms of severe chemical burn exposure include a large burn surface area, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, decreased blood pressure, palpitations, fainting, chills, pallor or sweating. Do not remove any clothing on or near the burn site. Run cool water over the area, elevate the burn site above the heart if possible and avoid breaking blisters. Wash away any chemical on the face or in your eyes. If washing your face in the sink does not seem to be effective, step into the shower to remove chemicals from your face and body.
Run Cold Water Over Most Chemical Burns
The best treatment for a chemical burn is to run cold water over the burn area as quickly as possible to reduce burn progression, risk of infection, pain and swelling. However, hypothermia may result if you run cold water over the burn area for longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Additionally, keep the contaminated chemical water from running onto unaffected body areas.
Use Mineral Oil or Petroleum for Certain Burns
Use mineral oil rather than water to clean chemical burns due to metallic lithium, sodium, potassium or magnesium. These chemicals react with water, so use mineral oil in these special circumstances. Remove metal pieces with tweezers or forceps. However, if that is not possible, then soak the chemical burn area in mineral oil. Petroleum jelly can be used for chemical burns due to white phosphorus.
Reduce Pain With NSAIDs
If you are experiencing pain, taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium or aspirin may reduce discomfort associated with chemical burns. Also, these drugs help to reduce inflammation, but use them for only a short period of time. You should consult with your medical practitioner before taking these drugs to make sure they do not interfere with any other drug regimens you are taking. If pain persists and becomes more severe, a medical practitioner may prescribe more potent pain relievers such as opioids.
Avoid Infection With Proper Care
After cleaning the chemical burn, do not put ointment on the area. Antimicrobial ointments should not be used until a medical practitioner is consulted. However, it is essential to make sure that the burn is properly covered with the correct type of dressing. Polyvinyl chloride film is the preparation of choice, but you can use cotton gauze sheets if polyvinyl chloride is unavailable. Also, apply the dressing loosely and change it every 24 to 48 hours. A medical practitioner should also check the wound for infection or any other complications. Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed if infection is present.