Treatment of a chemical burn is dependent on removing the chemical causing the burn, and then cleaning the area to promote healthy healing. While minor chemical burns can be treated at home, they sometimes require the attention of a doctor. If the burns cover a large area of the body or are extremely deep, the patient should be taken to see a physician as soon as possible. Likewise, if a patient appears dizzy, sick, disoriented, weak, or faint after a burn, this can indicate the burn has caused a more systemic injury which requires treatment.
Chemical burns happen when the body is exposed to caustic or acidic chemicals. These chemicals can range from ordinary household chemicals which contact the skin for prolonged periods to highly dangerous chemicals used in industrial manufacturing. In all cases, the first step in treating a chemical burn is flushing the area thoroughly with cold water to get the chemical off.
If the chemical is dry, it should be brushed off before rinsing. Whether wet or dry, it is a good idea for the patient to remove his or her clothing and jewelry, in case it has become contaminated. Washing the burn can be painful, but it flushes the chemical out of the burn, so it will stop burning the patient. Ideally, the wound should be flushed for 15 to 20 minutes, and if the patient becomes uncomfortable, he or she should be reminded that chemical burns can extend deep into the body if the chemical is not fully removed.
After rinsing, the burn should be allowed to dry, and then covered with a dry, sterile dressing. The dressing should be changed regularly, and the wound should be rinsed with mild antibacterial soap and allowed to air dry after each dressing change. Blisters, scabs, and peeling skin should not be picked at, as this can inhibit healing. The use of creams and ointments is also discouraged, as this can inhibit air circulation at the site of the burn.
Many chemical burns heal just fine with self-care. However, if a wound becomes infected or appears to be healing very slowly, it's a good idea to consult a doctor. Deep burns also require medical treatment, and may even require surgery in some cases to remove dead and dying tissue affected by the burn. If you are injured with chemicals in the workplace, the injury should be reported, and you may be asked to see a doctor to confirm that the burn is healing properly.
It is also possible to neutralize a chemical burn to stop the burning, but people should be careful when doing this. While it is theoretically possible to neutralize acids with bases and vice-versa, an unexpected reaction can occur and cause more harm. People who want to neutralize these burns would be well-advised to call a burn center for more information.