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Chemical Burns (cont.)

Chemical Burn Symptoms

All chemical burns should be considered potential medical emergencies.

Most chemical burns occur on the face, eyes, hands, arms, and legs. Usually a chemical burn will be relatively small and will require only outpatient treatment. Chemical burns can be deceiving, however. Some agents can cause deep tissue damage that is not not readily apparent when people first look at it.

  • Tissue damage from chemical burns depends on several factors.
    • The strength or concentration of the agent
    • The site of contact (eye, skin, mucous membrane)
    • Whether swallowed or inhaled
    • Whether or not skin is intact
    • With the quantity of the chemical
    • The duration of exposure
    • How the chemical works
    • The length of time to washing (decontamination)

  • Signs and symptoms of chemical burns include the following:
    • Redness, irritation, or burning at the site of contact
    • Pain or numbness at the site of contact
    • Formation of blisters or black dead skin at the contact site
    • Vision changes if the chemical gets into the eyes
    • Cough or shortness of breath
    • Vomiting

  • In severe cases, a person may develop any of the following symptoms:
    • Low blood pressure
    • Faintness, weakness, dizziness
    • Shortness of breath or severe cough
    • Headache
    • Muscle twitching or seizures
    • Cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeat

Chemical burns can be very unpredictable. Death from a chemical injury, although rare, can occur.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Burns, Chemical »

Acids are defined as proton donors (H+), and bases are defined as proton acceptors (OH-).

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