The symptoms of a chemical burn depend on a few basic but important factors:
- What substance caused the chemical burn
- Where the substance came into contact with living tissue
- How long the tissue was exposed to the corrosive substance
- Whether the substance was inhaled or ingested
Household bleach coming into contact with your skin, for example, will have a much different effect than bleach coming into contact with your eyes.
Although symptoms can vary widely, common signs and symptoms of a chemical burn include:
- Pain, redness, irritation, burning, or numbness at the site of contact
- The development of blisters or dead, blackened skin at the site of contact
- Blurry vision or total loss of vision if the materials came into contact with the eyes
- Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath if the substance was inhaled or ingested
In very severe chemical burns or if a corrosive substance was swallowed, you may experience symptoms like:
- Weakness, dizziness, or fainting
- Muscle spasms or seizures
- Low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or even cardiac arrest
If you, a loved one, or a coworker comes into contact with a corrosive substance, seek medical care immediately. Even if the exposure seems minor—if a household cleaner splashes on your arms, for example—it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider or Poison Control Center to determine whether emergency treatment is needed.
If the caustic substance is ingested or if the chemical burn is very deep, more than 3 inches in diameter, or affects the eyes, face, groin, buttocks, or a joint, seek emergency medical care.