The six most important first aid steps for acid burn victims

With recent spate of acid attacks in London, it is important to be aware of the steps to take if you or someone you are near is attacked by acid (in liquid form). With this in mind, these are the six most important steps for providing acid attack first aid.

  1. Call an ambulance or have someone else do it for you as you complete the next steps.
  2. The most important step to take as a result of providing acid attack first aid is washing. This should be done with plenty of fresh or saline (salt) water. It is important to not wash the affected area with dirty water as this may cause a serious infection. This process may take between 30-45 minutes and should be conducted until the victim’s burning sensation passes. It is advisable to avoid using a hard spray of water as it may cause further damage. If acid gets into a patient’s eyes, they should be run under cold water for at least 10 minutes – do not let a patient touch their own eyes as acid may be on their hands.
  3. All jewellery or clothing which has had contact with acid should be remove as one of the first priorities.
  4. The individual treating the burn should avoid applying any cream or ointment on the impacted area – this may slow treatment by medical professionals. Indeed, applying an alkaline solution may in fact lead to a chemical reaction which causes a more impactful burn.
  5. If possible, loosely cover the impacted area with sterilised gauze. This should help prevent debris and dirt entering the wound and contaminating it. Clingfilm (saran wrap) can also be used but this should be layered rather than wrapped around the affected area.
  6. Most importantly, for the patient’s long-term health – get to a hospital, ideally one with a ward specifically with a burns unit.

If possible, patients or those undertaking treatment should find out what chemical caused the burn, look out to see if a bottle is left behind by the attacker which could provide clues to the type of chemical used.

Tim Hammond

Dr Tim Hammond

Chief Medical Officer, CEGA

Care to be taken…

“As always when providing help to others, do take care to protect yourself. Ensure you take precautions to avoid being attacked as well, and be aware that there is likely to be undiluted acid on the victims clothing or in the surrounding area which may cause burns to you”

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