How to Provide Emergency Care for Victims with Chemical and Electrical Burns

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Although burns in general are treated accordingly in terms of depth and body surface area, there are several few exceptions in treating special kinds of burns. Burns that result from chemical exposure and electrical currents encompass the same preliminary first aid care but have more specific considerations.

Chemical burns

A chemical burn happens when a corrosive or caustic chemical substance is exposed to the surface of the skin which. Common examples of chemical substances which are highly corrosive and harmful to the skin include organic compounds, acids and alkalis. Since chemical burns does not dissipate naturally unlike thermal burns which when the source of the injury is put out such as heat from fire, chemical burns tend to continue inflicting damage to the skin as long as it still adheres to the skin’s surface.

First aid is basically the same for almost all chemical burns, except only for a few specific ones in which a chemical neutralizer is used to buff the chemical causing injury. Home care drain cleaners which are predominantly made up of alkali substances is a common chemical agent that causes more serious forms of chemical burns because it penetrates much deeper within the lower layers of the skin and remains active for much longer periods. Acids such as the ones present in many forms of batteries are also a common causative agent for chemical burns. Organic compounds such as petroleum products are also a very common chemical that causes burns.

YouTube video about Everyday First Aid: Burns

First Aid Care for chemical burns

1. Thoroughly flush the area with a large quantity of water for 15-25 minutes. Do not however, apply water under high pressure because it will drive the chemical deeper into the skin and surrounding tissue. If the chemical is a powder, brush away the material from the skin prior to washing the area.

2. Immediately remove the victim’s contaminated clothing and other items such as jewelries, watches and belts while flushing with water.

3. Cover the area with a dry, sterile gauze it clean dressing.

4. Contact emergency medical services or rush the victim to the nearest hospital for further management.

Electrical Burns

There are essentially three types of electrical burn injuries: thermal burn (flame), arc burn (flash) and true electrical burn (contact form live current). A thermal burn occurs when clothing or objects in contact with the skin burst into flames by an electric current. These injuries are caused by flames but produced by an electric current and not by the passage of a live current. An arc burn happens when electricity jumps or arcs from one point to another. Although the duration of the flash may generally be short, it usually causes extensive superficial injuries.

A true electrical injury sustained from a live electrical current occurs when an electric current directly passes through the body which can cause massive amounts of damage such as cardiac arrest, internal injuries and burns. Most of the time the current exits where the body touches a surface or when it comes in contact with the ground. This type of injury is characterized by and entrance and an exit wound.

First Aid Care for electrical burns

1. Make sure the area is safe. Unplug, turn off the main power supply, and disconnect wires if possible to prevent further electrical injuries. Immediately contact emergency medical services.

2. Check for responsiveness and breathing. Initiate CPR if necessary.

3. Care for shock and tend to wounds/burns caused by the electrocution.

4. Never leave the victim until emergency medical personnel arrive.


Alton, T. et al (2012). First Aid, CPR and AED Standard 6th Ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning

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