Chemical burns—otherwise known as caustic burns—occur when the skin comes into contact with an acid, base, alkali, detergent, or solvent, or the fumes produced by these corrosive materials. They most commonly affect the eyes, face, arms, and legs, but can cause serious damage to the mouth and throat if a corrosive material is ingested.
Fortunately, most chemical burns don’t do major damage to the skin. In fact, many are caused by common household or workplace materials and can be treated in outpatient settings—only about 5 percent of patients seeking emergency medical care for a chemical burn are admitted to the hospital. Highly caustic materials, however, can hurt deep layers of tissue, and the damage isn’t always immediately apparent.
Because the materials that cause chemical burns are so prevalent in homes, schools, and workplaces, it’s important to know what to do if you, a loved one, or a coworker come into contact with caustic materials.