A sulfuric acid burn is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. The first and most important step is to dilute and get rid of all sulfuric acid at the burn site by irrigating profusely with water. Sulfuric acid will continue burning into the skin until it is removed. All clothing or equipment with sulfuric acid on it should also be removed by a person wearing protective gear.
Chemical burns such as those caused by sulfuric acid, may occur in a number of places, mainly in industrial settings. Sulfuric acid is, however, found in some household products. All household chemicals should be locked away, out of reach of children. Sulfuric acid is used widely in industry, in the production of fertilizers, dyes, glue, paints, pharmaceutical products and many other products.
The severity of a sulfuric acid burn will depend on the strength of the acid. Sulfuric acid is usually transported in a concentrated, and therefore most dangerous, form. It may then be diluted, depending on what it is being used for.
No matter the concentration of the acid being handled, careful and strict occupational health and safety regulations must be adhered to. Safety glasses and face protection must be worn, as should full body protection and gloves, where necessary. When working with acid, the workplace should be well ventilated to prevent inhalation of fumes as an internal burn can occur if the fumes are inhaled.
Should acid spill on any part of the body causing a sulfuric acid burn, the acid will burn through the skin, exposing the under-layers. If the sulfuric acid burn is severe, the acid may burn deeper into the body. This poses a huge to risk for infection. Medical attention should be sought immediately.
The first step when treating a sulfuric acid burn is to get rid of the acid causing the burn. This can be done by irrigating the area profusely with water and removal of any garments which contain the acid. The person caring for the patient must be sure to wear protective clothing while administering help, to prevent them from being burnt too.
If the burn is severe, the patient may go into shock and should be treated symptomatically and kept warm. In the hospital, the patient will be treated in the same manner as any burn patient. Treatment may include fluid replacement, administration of antibiotics to prevent infection and skin grafting. Recovery from serious burns may take an extended period of time while the tissues heal.