Chemical Skin Burns

Severe skin irritations are a rare but serious hazard. On contact, strong acids, alkalis, and heavy metals may cause chemical burns. The skin reacts immediately, and a lesion appears quickly. These lesions may progress to erosions and necrosis (1,8,9).

Immediate removal from exposure, removal of contaminated clothing, and irrigation with water can limit the extent of injury. It is a mistake to treat alkali burns with acid or acid burns with an alkali because it will result in additional damage through an exothermic reaction. Burns are best treated with Silvadene dressings, and tetanus prophylaxis must be assured. Large or full-thickness burns may require hospitalization, especially if the patient has other systemic illness such as diabetes (8,9).

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