Chemical exposure can cause a skin reaction that may show up as a rash or burn which may sometimes be severe. In most cases, a chemical burn resembles a heat burn and is treated similarly. Since chemical burns frequently occur in the home, prevention centers around avoiding contact with potentially dangerous household chemicals.
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A chemical burn or rash will develop in the location where the chemical touched the skin. It may appear simply as a red area on the skin or may blister if more severe. The skin may peel or break out in hives. The skin may feel sore or itch. The chemical burn may also become very painful, either immediately or a few hours after the initial exposure. Some types of chemical burns can turn the skin black or cause deep tissue damage.
Many different types of chemicals can cause a chemical burn, explains the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Oxidizers such as chlorine, acids such as swimming pool cleaners, cement, gasoline, drain cleaners and lime are all potential sources. The solution that causes a chemical burn can be either acidic or basic. Most chemical burns come from accidental contact with chemicals within the household.
First aid should be given immediately after a chemical burn occurs. All traces of the chemical should be removed from the surface of the skin and any clothing or jewelry that came in contact with the chemical should also be removed. The burned skin should be rinsed in cool water for 15 to 20 minutes. Burns caused by lithium, potassium, sodium and magnesium should not be rinsed but submerged in mineral oil, advises Derma NZ. The individual should then wrap the burned area in sterile gauze.
If the burn is severe, showing signs of blistering or tissue damage, the individual should report to a hospital. At the hospital, the doctor will want to know what caused the burn and what first aid has been applied. The doctor may clean the wound and apply an appropriate neutralizing substance. She may also cover the burn with a protective dressing and apply a topical antibiotic cream to stave off any secondary infections.
Since most chemical burns are the result of exposure to household chemicals, prevention involves taking care to properly store and use these chemicals. Household chemicals should be kept in their original container. When cleaning with chemicals, protective gloves should be worn. Chemicals should not be mixed together and should be used only as the product directions specify. Parents with young children should be particularly careful to store chemicals that could be dangerous in an inaccessible location, such as a locked cabinet.