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What should you do if someone suffers inhalation chemical burns?

Chemical burns are a serious problem in the industrial world where handling chemical compounds, solvents and acids is a commonplace activity. Employees can actually be seriously burned simply by inhaling the fumes of some chemicals.

What can you do to help the victim?

1. Recognize the symptoms.

An inhalation chemical burn may not show any outward signs. You need to be alert to the other signs of internal chemical exposure:

-- Trouble breathing or frantic coughing

-- Dizziness and headache

-- Seizures or twitching muscles

-- Irregular heartbeat, heart attack or cardiac arrest

-- Sudden low blood pressure

-- Pain in the mouth, nose and throat

2. Respond quickly.

Call 911 to obtain emergency services and alert your company's safety team or your immediate supervisor (whatever your company's policy dictates) immediately.

Try to get the employee to a safe area, away from any residual fumes from the toxic chemical. Make sure you take note, if possible, of the exact chemical compound that he or she breathed in so you can inform medical personnel.

3. Know what not to do.

Don't allow other employees to be exposed while trying to help the injured employee -- that will only compound the problems.

Do not give the injured employee milk, water or activated charcoal to try to soothe their throat or pain unless you are directed to do so by a medical professional.

Do not induce vomiting with anything unless directed by a medical professional. The employee's throat may be seriously burnt by the inhaled fumes, so vomiting could actually increase the damage that's already there.

4. If emergency oxygen is available, use it.

If your workplace has emergency oxygen cylinders available, the wisest course of action is to use it to help the employee breathe more easily until emergency medical care arrives.

There can be some risks to the use of supplemental oxygen, but it's generally accepted that the benefits outweigh the risks in these type of situations. Supplemental oxygen may keep the employee breathing and reduce the possibility of cell death in his or body or brain due to the effects of the inhaled chemical.

Any employee who suffers an inhalation injury due to an accident at work may be looking at a long recovery period. Consider seeking the advice of an attorney who is familiar with industrial accidents in order to get fair compensations for any injuries.

Source: ePainAssist.com, "What are Chemical Burns?," accessed May 02, 2017

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