Chemical burns

What are chemical burns?

A chemical burn occurs when your skin or eyes come into contact with an irritant, such as an acid or a base. Chemical burns are also known as caustic burns. They may cause a reaction on your skin or within your body. These burns can affect your internal organs if chemicals are swallowed.

You should immediately check your mouth for cuts or burns if you swallow a chemical. You should also call a local poison control center or go to the emergency room right away if you swallow a chemical. 

Call 999 / 112 if someone you know has a chemical burn and is unconscious.

What causes chemical burns?

Acids and bases cause most chemical burns. Burns caused by chemicals can happen at school, work, or any place where you handle chemical materials. Some of the most common products that cause chemical burns are:

  • car battery acid
  • bleach
  • ammonia
  • denture cleaners
  • teeth whitening products
  • pool chlorination products

Who is at risk for chemical burns?

People who are at the highest risk for chemical burns are infants, older adults, and people with disabilities. These groups may not be able to handle chemicals properly. You may be at increased risk for chemical burns if you’re handling acids or other chemicals without assistance and you have decreased mobility.READER SURVEYPlease take a quick 1-minute survey

What are the symptoms of chemical burns?

The symptoms of chemical burns can vary depending on how the burn occurred. A burn caused by a chemical you swallowed will cause different symptoms than burns that occur on your skin. The symptoms of a chemical burn will depend on:

  • the length of time your skin was in contact with the chemical
  • whether the chemical was inhaled or swallowed
  • whether your skin had open cuts or wounds or was intact during contact 
  • the location of contact
  • the amount and strength of the chemical used
  • whether the chemical was a gas, liquid, or solid

For example, if you swallow an alkaline chemical, it will cause burns on the inside of your stomach. This may produce different symptoms than a chemical burn on your skin. 

In general, the common symptoms associated with chemical burns include:

  • blackened or dead skin, which is mainly seen in chemical burns from acid
  • irritation, redness, or burning in the affected area
  • numbness or pain in the affected area
  • a loss of vision or changes in vision if chemicals have come into contact with your eyes

Some of the following symptoms may also occur if you’ve swallowed a chemical:

How are chemical burns diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on several factors. These may include:

  • the level of pain in the affected area
  • the amount of damage to the area
  • the depth of the burn
  • signs of possible infection
  • the amount of swelling present

What are the types of chemical burns?

Your doctor will classify the burn according to the extent of the injury and the depth of the burn itself: 

  • Injury to the top layer of skin, or the epidermis, is called a superficial burn. This was formerly called a first-degree burn.
  • Injury to the second layer of skin, or the dermis, is called a partial thickness injury or dermal injury. This was formerly called a second-degree burn.
  • Injury to the third layer of skin, or subcutaneous tissue, is referred to as a full thickness injury. This was formerly called a third-degree burn.

How are chemical burns treated?

First aid should be given to chemical burns immediately if possible. This includes removing the chemical that caused the burn and rinsing the skin under running water for 40 minutes. If a chemical came into contact with your eyes, rinse your eyes continuously for at least 40 minutes before seeking emergency care.

Remove any clothing or jewelry contaminated by the chemical. Wrap the burned area loosely with a dry sterile dressing or a clean cloth if possible. If the burn is superficial, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You should go to the emergency room immediately if the burn is more serious.

You should also go to the hospital right away if:

  • the burn is larger than 3 inches in width or length
  • the burn is on your face, hands, feet, groin, or buttocks
  • the burn occurred over a major joint, such as your knee
  • the pain can’t be controlled with OTC pain medications 
  • you have the signs and symptoms of shock, which include shallow breathing, dizziness, and low blood pressure

Depending on the severity of your condition, your healthcare provider may use the following methods to treat your burn: 

  • antibiotics
  • anti-itch medications
  • debridement, which involves cleaning or removing dirt and dead tissue
  • skin grafting, which involves attaching healthy skin from another part of the body to the burn wound
  • intravenous (IV) fluids

For severe burns

You’ll need burn rehabilitation if you’re severely burned. This type of rehabilitation may provide some of the following treatments:

  • skin replacement
  • pain management
  • cosmetic surgery
  • occupational therapy, which can help you redevelop everyday skills
  • counseling
  • patient education

What is the long-term outlook for someone with chemical burns?

The outlook depends on the severity of the burn. Minor chemical burns tend to heal fairly quickly with the appropriate treatment. More severe burns, however, may require long-term treatment. In this case, your doctor may recommend that you receive care at a specialized burn center. 

Some people who have experienced severe chemical burns may have complications, including: 

  • disfigurement
  • limb loss
  • infection
  • scarring
  • muscle and tissue damage
  • depression
  • flashbacks
  • nightmares

Most people with severe chemical burns will recover if they have the proper treatment and rehabilitation. 

How can I prevent chemical burns?

You can prevent chemical burns by following safety procedures and taking precautions while handling chemical materials. These include:

  • keeping chemicals out of the reach of children
  • storing chemicals properly and safely after use
  • using chemicals in a well-ventilated area
  • leaving chemicals in their original containers with warning labels
  • avoiding the use of chemicals
  • avoiding mixing chemicals with other chemicals
  • only purchasing chemicals in protective containers
  • keeping chemicals away from food and drinks
  • wearing protective gear and clothing when using chemicals

Call a poison control center if you’re unsure whether a certain substance is toxic.

Prolonged Convulsive Seizures

An estimated 70% of people with epilepsy can expect to become seizure-free with optimised anti-epileptic therapy. Conversely, a sizeable minority of patients will continue to experience break-through seizures. Although these are bound to be a frightening experience for the patient and their family, many seizures are self-limiting within a short time, without the need for rescue medication.

A prolonged acute convulsive seizure is defined as a seizure lasting more than 5 min, or two or more seizures occurring within 30 min without the complete recovery of consciousness in between. In contrast to brief seizures, a seizure lasting more than 5min is far less likely to be self-terminating, and may often progress to Status Epilepticus if untreated.

Status Epilepticus (SE) is defined as a seizure lasting more than 30 min, and may be associated with significant morbidity. Common sequelae include learning difficulties, memory deficits, and the ongoing risk of subsequent prolonged seizure activity. Alongside the underlying cause, seizure duration is a primary determinant of prognosis.

SE also carries a significant risk of death. Mortality in the paediatric population is estimated at up to 5%, and this figure rises exponentially in refractory cases.

Respiratory Concerns

Causes of long-term breathlessness

Reasons for long-term breathlessness include:

  • obesity or being unfit
  • poorly controlled asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – permanent damage to the lungs usually caused by years of smoking
  • anaemia – a low level of oxygen in the blood caused by a lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen)
  • heart failure – when your heart is having trouble pumping enough blood around your body, usually because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly
  • a problem with your heart rate or rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation (an irregular and fast heart rate) or supraventricular tachycardia (regular and fast heart rate)

More unusual causes of long-term breathlessness are:

  • a lung condition where the airways are abnormally widened and you have a persistent phlegmy cough (bronchiectasis
  • a recurrent blockage in a blood vessel in the lung (pulmonary embolism
  • partial collapse of your lung caused by lung cancer
  • a collection of fluid next to the lung (pleural effusion)
  • narrowing of the main heart valve, restricting blood flow to the rest of the body
  • frequent panic attacks, which can cause you to hyperventilate (take rapid or deep breaths) 

FirstAid for Acid and chemical burn Trauma

Acid and chemical burns

Burns caused by acid, alkaline or caustic chemicals can be very damaging and need immediate medical attention.

Call 999 and ask for urgent help.

Immediate first aid

After calling 999, to help prevent severe injuries from a chemical burn:

  • try to carefully remove the chemical and any contaminated clothing
  • rinse the affected area using as much clean water as possible

Remove the chemical and affected clothing

  • try to remove the chemical and contaminated clothing from contact with the skin and eyes, but be very careful not to touch or spread the chemical
  • use gloves or other protective materials to cover hands and, if possible, carefully cut away clothing such as T-shirts, rather than pulling them off over the head
  • do not wipe the skin as this may spread contamination
  • if the chemical is dry, brush it off the skin

Rinse continuously with clean water

  • rinse the affected area continuously with clean water as soon as possible
  • try to make sure the water can run off the affected area without pooling on the skin
  • only use water – do not rub or wipe the area

Stay on the phone until the ambulance arrives and follow any other advice given by the 999 call handler to avoid further injury.

First Aid Certification Extension

First aid certificate extensions

First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First aid at Work (EFAW) certificates requalification

First aid providers have resumed first aid training and assessment. In some cases, there remains a back log or limited availability.

FAW or EFAW certificates that expired after 16 March 2020 can remain valid until 31 October 2020 or 6 months from date of expiry, whichever is later. All requalification training for these certificates should be completed by 31 March 2021.

To qualify for the extension, employers must be able to demonstrate that:

  • they have made every effort to arrange requalification training as soon as possible and can explain in detail why they have not been able to do so. For example, they must show evidence that staff with expired certificates are booked on to EFAW or FAW requalification courses,  if requested by an inspector
  • they have adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities to give first aid to any employee who is injured or becomes ill at work
  • the level of first aid cover provided remains appropriate for their particular work environment
  • the level of first aid provision necessary in high risk settings is fully maintained, eg in construction, agriculture, engineering and chemicals

Annual refresher training

If first aiders are unable to access annual refresher training face to face during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, HSE supports the use of online refresher training to keep their skills up to date.

HSE still strongly recommends that the practical elements of actual FAW, EFAW and requalification courses are delivered face to face, so that competency of the student can be properly assessed.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease

Diseases affecting the cardiovascular system are called cardiovascular disease.

Many of these diseases are called “lifestyle diseases” because they develop over time and are related to a person’s exercise habits, diet, whether they smoke, and other lifestyle choices a person makes. Atherosclerosis is the precursor to many of these diseases. It is where small atheromatous plaques build up in the walls of medium and large arteries. This may eventually grow or rupture to occlude the arteries. It is also a risk factor for acute coronary syndromes, which are diseases that are characterised by a sudden deficit of oxygenated blood to the heart tissue. Atherosclerosis is also associated with problems such as aneurysm formation or splitting (“dissection”) of arteries.

Another major cardiovascular disease involves the creation of a clot, called a “thrombus”. These can originate in veins or arteries. Deep venous thrombosis, which mostly occurs in the legs, is one cause of clots in the veins of the legs, particularly when a person has been stationary for a long time. These clots may embolise, meaning travel to another location in the body. The results of this may include pulmonary embolustransient ischaemic attacks, or stroke.

Cardiovascular diseases may also be congenital in nature, such as heart defects or persistent fetal circulation, where the circulatory changes that are supposed to happen after birth do not. Not all congenital changes to the circulatory system are associated with diseases, a large number are anatomical variations.

Scene Survey

When arriving at the scene of an accident it is important to firstly ensure the safety of the casualty, bystanders and the first aiders themselves.

Control the Situation

Stop at the scene, don’t panic and take a deep breath. Act quickly to ensure the safety of all and prioritise the risk of vehicular traffic.

Look for Potential Hazards

Scan the area for anything that could cause harm to you, the casualty or bystanders. Identifying known hazards at this point could prevent further casualties. Examples include the risk of electricity and fast moving water.

Assess the Situation

Gather information from both the casualty and / or bystanders at the scene. Use the principles of History, Signs and Symptoms to identify what is going on.

Protect and Prioritize

Protect yourself and the casualty from cross infection by wearing gloves and using sterile equipment from a first aid kit. Ensure casualty’s are prioritized using the principles of Breathing, Bleeding, Fractures / Bones and other injuries.

Gain as much assistance as possible from bystanders and get the required information to the emergency services. The emergency services won’t come unless you call them and they will not prioritize you unless the required information is given. It is possible to speed this process up (potentially saving the casualty) by being clear, concise and to straight to the point.

What is the skeletal system

The human skeletal system consists of all of the bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments in the body. Altogether, the skeleton makes up about 20 percent of a person’s body weight.

An adult’s skeleton contains 206 bones. Children’s skeletons actually contain more bones because some of them, including those of the skull, fuse together as they grow up.

There are also some differences in the male and female skeleton. The male skeleton is usually longer and has a high bone mass. The female skeleton, on the other hand, has a broader pelvis to accommodate for pregnancy and child birth.

Regardless of age or sex, the skeletal system can be broken down into two parts, known as the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton.

Axial skeleton anatomy

The adult axial skeleton consists of 80 bones. It’s made up of the bones that form the vertical axis of the body, such as the bones of the head, neck, chest, and spine.

Skull bones

The adult skull comprises 22 bones. These bones can be further classified by location:

  • Cranial bones. The eight cranial bones form the bulk of your skull. They help to protect your brain.
  • Facial bones. There are 14 facial bones. They’re found on the front of the skull and make up the face.

Auditory ossicles

The auditory ossicles are six small bones found within the inner ear canal in the skull. There are three auditory ossicles on each side of the head, known as the:

They work together to transmit sound waves from the surrounding environment to the structures of the inner ear.


The hyoid is a U-shaped bone found at the base of the jaw. It serves as a point of attachment for muscles and ligaments in the neck.

Vertebral column

The vertebral column is made up 26 bones. The first 24 are all vertebrae, followed by the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone).

The 24 vertebrae can be further divided into the:

  • Cervical vertebrae. These seven bones are found in the head and neck.
  • Thoracic vertebrae. These 12 bones are found in the upper back.
  • Lumbar vertebrae. These five bones are found in the lower back.

The sacrum and coccyx are both made up of several fused vertebrae. They help support the weight of the body while sitting. They also serve as attachment points for various ligaments.

Thoracic cage

The thoracic cage is made up of the sternum (breastbone) and 12 pairs of ribs. These bones form a protective cage around the organs of the upper torso, including the heart and lungs.

Some of the ribs attach directly to the sternum, while others are linked to the sternum via cartilage. Some have no attachment point and are referred to as “floating ribs.”

The importance of using an AED

There is a lot of research which has shown that prompt CPR and early defibrillation gives better survival. In the UK survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is under 10%. Having an AED at your pitches, clubhouse or with the coaches enables much quicker defibrillation should disaster strike. In many sports areas if you don’t have a AED on site then, on average, it will take between 8 and 16 min to run to a AED and back. If it takes 8 minutes the chance of survival is 20%. With a defibrillator onsite this delay may be more like 2-3 minutes giving a survival rate 70-80%.