Chemical burns are understood as such violation of the integrity of human tissues, in which the main cause of its occurrence was chemically active substances or liquids, alkalis, acids, salts of heavy metals.
Chemical burns often occur in households and workplaces when the handling or safety procedures for these substances are not followed.
The severity of the lesion is always determined by its depth, the time of exposure to the damaging factor, as well as its concentration. The most severe are chemical burns of the third and fourth degrees, which most often occur in production situations when an employee is dealing with hazardous substances.
Possible degrees of chemical exposure
There can be 4 degrees of chemical burns. The mildest degree is considered to be 1 degree, in which only the upper layer of the epidermis is affected. Such a lesion is expressed in slight redness and swelling. The affected area may ache slightly, especially when it is touched. If a lesion occurs in the deeper layers of the skin, a 2nd degree of chemical burns is diagnosed. This degree differs from the previous one in the additional occurrence of blisters with fluid on swollen and reddened skin.
If, in addition to the epidermis, chemical damage has spread to the closely located subcutaneous adipose tissue, then a chemical burn of the 3rd degree is diagnosed. At this stage, the blisters are not transparent, as in the 2nd degree of damage, but a cloudy or bloody liquid. In addition, pain in the lesions is absent due to impaired tissue sensitivity. If, with all these signs, the lesion reaches the tendons and bone tissue, doctors diagnose grade 4 chemical burns.
Alkaline and acid effects
In case of acid or alkaline burns, a specific crust immediately appears on the skin - a scab. The scab has a loose and soft structure, it is white in color and has no clear boundaries. If we compare the degree of penetration of burns when exposed to alkalis and acids, it can be noted that alkaline chemical burns are deeper and more complex.
Acid exposure produces a dry, hard crust with well-defined edges that stands out from healthy skin. Such injuries are most often superficial, and with small areas of lesions do not pose a serious threat to health.
The color of the skin in a chemical injury depends largely on what caused the injury. For example:
- when exposed to sulfuric acid, the skin first turns white, and then acquires a gray-brown tint;
- when exposed to nitric acid, the skin becomes yellow-green or brownish-yellowish;
- when burned with hydrochloric acid, the skin becomes yellowish;
- when exposed to acetic acid, a dirty brown tint appears on the skin;
- with a carbolic acid burn, the affected area first turns white, and then changes its color to brown;
- in case of burns with concentrated hydrogen peroxide, the skin turns gray.
It is important to understand that chemicals can actively invade the skin, and even after the source of burns is removed, the active substance can continue to be absorbed into the deeper layers, increasing the degree of damage. This factor is very important and determines the complexity of chemical burns, since in the first hours and even days after injury it is often impossible to determine the degree of skin burn. Experts can make an accurate determination only a week after the incident according to the characteristics of suppuration of the formed crusts. At the first stage, specialists differentiate the severity of the effects obtained by the area of the lesion, which indicates the degree of danger to the patient's life from the resulting chemical effect.
If a person has been burned by chemicals, it is important to provide correct first aid quickly. To do this, first of all, all clothing, jewelry and other items are removed from the affected area. Then the affected surface must be washed under a running stream of cool clean water for 15 minutes. If the site of the lesion is not washed immediately, it should be washed under water for at least half an hour later. It is important to remember that it is strictly forbidden to rub places with chemical reagents with wet wipes or rags soaked in water, since this can only aggravate the process of penetration of the reagent deep into the tissues.
If the chemical has a powdery texture, then before washing the affected area, the remains of this powder are removed with wipes, and only then the washing begins.
However, this should not be done if it is known for sure that under the influence of water the chemical begins to work more actively. For example, when exposed to the skin of aluminum, its contact with water can lead to a fire, which, of course, exacerbates the burn.
If the area of the skin washed with water begins to burn more, then the washing should continue, since the substance has not been completely eliminated. When flushing is completed, the effect of the chemical must be neutralized. For acid burns, this is done with a soapy solution or a two percent solution of soda.
For alkaline burns, citric acid or vinegar in the form of weak aqueous solutions should act as a neutralizer. With lime exposure, the chemical component can be neutralized with a 2% sugar solution, and with carbolic acid burns, neutralization occurs with glycerin or milk of lime.
In order to reduce the pronounced pain in the victim, it is important to apply wet and cold dressings to the affected area in a timely manner. Before transporting the victim to the hospital, a dry, clean cloth is applied to the burned area, which is lightly bandaged on top with a bandage (if the lesion can be squeezed).
It is also important to provide timely and correct first aid for chemical burns, depending on their location. For example, in case of a chemical burn of the eyes, they should be immediately washed with cold running water, holding the eyelid and directing a weak stream of water to the mucosal area for 15 minutes. Immediately after washing the eye of the victim, it is necessary to send to an ophthalmologist to save vision.
If a person has received a chemical burn of the gastrointestinal tract - larynx, esophagus, stomach - the victim will immediately experience severe pain in this area, bloody vomiting, attacks of suffocation.
If the burn was acidic, the stomach should be flushed with alkali as soon as possible, and if alkaline, respectively, with an acid solution. Immediately after this, the patient must be urgently hospitalized.
When urgent hospitalization is necessary
Sometimes, when a chemical burn occurs, there is not a minute to lose and the victim should be immediately sent to the hospital without first aid. This can be in a situation where the victim after the defeat plunged into a state of shock, lost consciousness, his pulse stopped being felt and breathing was not observed. If a person has a total diameter of the affected area exceeding 7.5 centimeters, then this is also a reason for urgently seeking medical help. It is necessary to take a person to the hospital with a severe pain syndrome that does not decrease even after the use of painkillers, as well as in the case when the legs, groin, buttocks, face, hands, areas of large joints, oral cavity and esophagus were subjected to chemical burns.