Chemicals that attack the skin will continue to burn the skin as long as the chemical is in contact with the skin.
Chemicals should be removed as soon as possible.
a. Liquid Chemicals.
If the burn is caused by a liquid chemical, pour as much water as possible over the burned area. (This is called “flushing” the area.) Use cool water from a canteen, Lyster bag, or water trailer if it is available. If a sufficient amount of water is not available, use any nonflammable fluid to flush the area.
(1) Flush the area for at least 20 minutes. Flush longer if the chemical is an alkali, such as caustic soda. Alkalies penetrate deeper and cause more severe injuries.
(2) Do not delay flushing in order to remove the casualty’s clothing. Remove his clothing and jewelry while flushing the area.
(3) Do not use a hard blast of water to flush the burned area. High water pressure can increase the damage to the tissues.
(4) Some chemicals have a delayed reaction. Flush even though the casualty does not feel pain. Do not stop flushing just because the casualty’s pain goes away.
b. Dry Chemicals.
If the chemical is in a dry form (such as lime), use a clean, dry cloth to brush off loose particles of the dry chemical. Take care to avoid getting the particles on your body. After brushing off the particles, flush the area with as much water or other nonflammable liquid as possible.
CAUTION: If a large amount of water or other nonflammable liquid is not available, do not flush the area until the casualty has been moved to an area where sufficient water is available. Applying a small amount of water to a dry chemical may cause a chemical reaction which transforms the dry chemical into an active, burning substance. Do not attempt to irrigate the area unless you can continue flushing for at least 20 minutes.
c. White Phosphorus.
White phosphorus becomes active (burns) when exposed to air. It sticks to the skin and continues to burn until it is deprived of air. White phosphorus usually causes multiple, deep second- and third-degree burns.
(1) Quickly smother the flame with a non-petroleum liquid such as water, mud, or urine. If possible, submerge the entire area in water.
(2) If possible, remove the particles of white phosphorus from the skin. This can be accomplished by brushing the skin with a wet cloth and/or using forceps, a knife, or similar instrument to remove the particles.
(3) If the particles cannot be removed, cover the area with wet cloth or mud. The wet material or mud will keep air from getting to the white phosphorus and, thus, keep the particles from beginning to burn again.
CAUTION: Do not use grease or oil on a white phosphorus burn. Grease or oil may cause the body to absorb the poisonous white phosphorus particles.
d. Radioactive Fallout.
Burns caused by radioactive particles sticking to the casualty’s skin are treated by brushing the particles from the casualty and flushing the skin with water. Take care to keep the radioactive particles and contaminated water from coming into contact with your skin and clothing.