Batteries play a big role in our life, it’s easy not to think about them. Because they are so ubiquitous, you may have been oblivious of them, until you accidentally splash battery acid on your skin.
Does it hurt if battery acid gets in contact with your skin? If so, what are the symptoms? What are the treatments for battery acid on the skin?
Some batteries, such as car batteries, contain sulfuric acid, which varies in concentration. This chemical substance can corrode ordinary steel and other metals, except aluminum and stainless steel.
At its weakest concentration, it can cause itching and tingling sensations on tough skin surfaces like your palm and elbows. However, you can suffer skin burns even on the tough surfaces of your skin at its strongest concentration.
Nickel-cadmium batteries in your electronic gadgets also contain harmful chemicals that can burn your skin if exposed to it.
Read on because this article will give you a deeper understanding of battery acid and its effects on your skin. You will also learn about the treatments that you need to apply.
Also, for an excellent moisturizer to quickly heal your skin, take a look at our top pick, the ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer:
Battery Acid on Skin
Your skin is not as tough as steel. Therefore, if battery acid accidentally gets in contact with your skin, you can suffer skin irritations, such as itching at the very least, and skin burns in worst-case scenarios.
Even nickel-cadmium batteries (those that you use in flashlights, mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets) contain harmful chemicals. If you are exposed to the chemicals from nickel-cadmium batteries, you may experience itching, burns, and other skin irritations.
Battery acid is a mixture of water and sulfuric acid. The usual acid concentration is about 36 to 40 percent. It is wrong to assume that battery acid is 100 percent sulfuric acid.
The chemical compound found in batteries is actually a diluted solution of sulfuric acid. Undiluted or concentrated H2SO4 will instantly burn your skin and other materials whether they are organic or inorganic.
Sulfuric acid, being a dehydrating chemical and powerful antioxidant, must be diluted before it can be used in batteries. The right amount of water is added to this chemical so that it can be used in the battery. This mixture is then allowed to cool down before it is poured into the battery container.
It is one of the reasons why water is the best substance that can treat battery acid on the skin. If you apply more water into the affected area of the skin, the itching and burning will be reduced.
If you don’t pour water into the affected skin area, battery acid will irritate your skin and will cause that spot to itch. You should wash off the battery acid with water as soon as possible. Don’t allow battery acid to remain on your skin because it will cause your skin to dry even if there are no severe burns.
You should also apply skin creams or moisturizers such as the ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream, Intensive Moisturizer. If you apply this moisturizer, it will enhance the healing of your skin.
The Nature of Chemical Burns
You will experience a chemical burn when an irritant comes into contact with your skin or eyes. The irritant that causes chemical burns is usually a base or an acid. If the irritant is swallowed, it can harm your internal organs.
If you have accidentally swallowed battery acid, immediately check your mouth if there are burns or cuts. Next, go to the nearest hospital for treatment or call your medical provider for help.
Products That Can Cause Chemical Burns
A majority of chemical burns are caused by base and acid substances. These substances are contained in common products that we use. Accidents can happen in workplaces, schools, stores, and other places where these products are available.
The most common product that can cause chemical burns is the lead-acid battery, which is the one that is used in motor vehicles.
Other products that can cause chemical burns include denture cleaners, pool chlorination products, bleach, teeth whitening products, and ammonia.
Battery Acid Can Cause Chemical Burns
Battery acid on the skin can lead to chemical burns. A healthcare provider is the best person who can determine or diagnose the kind and extent of chemical burns. A healthcare provider’s diagnosis may include the following:
- The extent of damage in the affected area of the skin
- The depth of the burn
- The amount of swelling
- The level of pain that the patient is suffering
- Any signs of infection in the affected skin area
There are several kinds of chemical burns. They are:
- First-degree Burns – Burns on the epidermis or the first skin layer or the topmost layer of the skin. This burn is only superficial.
- Second-degree Burns – Burns on the dermis or the second skin layer. This is classified as a dermal injury or partial-thickness injury.
- Third-degree Burns – Burns on the subcutaneous tissue, the third skin layer. A third-degree burn is classified as full-thickness injury and is the most serious of all burns.
Aside from its adverse effects on your skin, exposure to battery acid can also affect your health even in the absence of physical contact.
For instance, if you breathe in the exposed lead from lead-acid batteries, it can cause damage to your liver and brain. This kind of lead exposure is very harmful to pregnant women and children.
Nickel-cadmium batteries such as the small batteries used in electronic gadgets are also harmful if they are accidentally ingested. Small babies and children are more prone to such accidents because they tend to put anything into their mouths.
Ingesting these batteries could lead to brain and organ damage once the chemicals inside the batteries leak and are absorbed by the body.
Symptoms of Battery Acid on Skin
There are several symptoms of battery acid on skin. Particular symptoms may be observed depending on the circumstances that led to the chemical burn. Burns caused by skin contact have different symptoms than those that are caused by the ingestion of harmful chemicals.
Some common symptoms of chemical burns are as follows:
- Pain or numbness in the affected area
- Skin irritation, itching, redness, or burning
- Dead skin or blackened skin (if there is accidental acid contact with the skin)
- Change in vision or even loss of vision (if there is accidental contact with the eyes)
The following symptoms may be experienced for accidental ingestion of battery acid:
- Uncontrolled twitching of muscles
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Heart attack or cardiac arrest
The specific symptoms that will occur after a chemical burn will depend on many factors. For instance, if you have accidentally swallowed a large quantity of battery acid, you will have serious chemical burns on your stomach and esophagus.
The symptoms will be different if there is accidental contact of battery acid on your skin.
Factors that affect the degree and type of symptom are as follows:
- The type of acid (solid, liquid, or gas)
- The method of contact (swallowed, inhaled, or through direct skin contact)
- The skin spot or area where acid contact took place
- The amount of battery acid that was ingested, inhaled, or in contact with, as well as its concentration or strength
- The length of time that the skin is exposed to battery acid
- The characteristics of the skin in contact with the acid (wounds or open cuts)
Emergency First Aid Intervention for Battery Acid on Skin
Chemical burns must be treated immediately to avert more serious consequences. You can perform the following first-aid intervention in case your skin or the skin of another person accidentally gets in contact with battery acid:
- Immediately flush the affected area with lukewarm water. Let the water flow gently to your skin for the next 30 minutes.
- If there is still skin irritation in that area, continue flushing it with lukewarm water.
- Don’t stop the flushing if the skin irritation persists. Have a vehicle ready just in case you have to go to the clinic or hospital for emergency medical intervention.
- Wrap the affected area with a sterile dressing. The dressing should be loosely applied to avoid adding more distress to the affected skin area.
- Remove any contaminated shoes, clothing, belts, watch, and other things under running water. Discard these contaminated items so they won’t harm others.
- If the chemical burn is severe, rush the patient to the nearest hospital for immediate medical intervention.
Treatments for Battery Acid on Skin
Here are some of the treatments that need to the administered to someone who accidentally gets battery acid on the skin:
- If the burn is only superficial, give an over-the-counter medication for pain relief. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two medications that are usually given to help relieve the pain.
- You can also apply the Aloe Vera Gelly 4 fl. oz. 100% stabilized aloe vera gel on the affected skin. This gel will gently lubricate the tissues that became sensitive as a result of the chemical burn. It will also help reduce the pain and enhance the healing of the skin.
The following interventions or medications may be administered by your medical provider:
- Cleaning and removing dirt and dead tissues
- Anti-itch medications
- Administration of intravenous fluids (if necessary)
If necessary, skin grafting or attaching healthy skin to the damaged skin area will be performed by certified medical practitioners. This procedure involves taking healthy skin from another part of the patient’s body.
Treatment for Serious Cases of Chemical Burns
Medical intervention is required for severe cases of chemical burns. The following are some of the conditions that will require medical intervention:
- If the chemical burn is on the face, hands, groin, buttocks, or feet of the person
- If the burn is longer or wider than 3 inches
- If the burn is located on a critical joint such as the knee
- If the person exhibits signs and symptoms of shock, such as feeling dizzy, low blood pressure, and shallow breathing
- If pain is not relieved by OTC pain relievers
If the affected skin is severely burned, it will need rehabilitation. Here are some of the usual rehabilitation treatments for severe chemical burns:
- Pain management by the administration of pain killers and drugs, including pain therapies
- Skin replacement
- Cosmetic surgery
- Patient education
- Occupational therapy to help regain normal physical capabilities
How to Handle Batteries
To avoid chemical burns, you need to be careful when working with batteries. Follow these safety rules:
- Make sure that the batteries that you are working with are free of acid leaks. When servicing old batteries, be sure that they were not abused by their owners. Batteries that are abused or overused are prone to leaks and can emit dangerous chemicals.
- Keep your workplace well-ventilated to prevent the accumulation of dangerous vapors from leaking batteries.
- Always wear protective clothing and goggles when servicing old batteries.
- Keep toy batteries away from children. If the juices in these batteries are already spent, throw them in the waste bin.
- Keep your batteries in a dry, cool space. High temperatures can cause batteries to overheat. They may swell and may cause leaks in their internal parts.
- Don’t just throw away your used batteries. You can safely put them away or give them to organizations that recycle used batteries.
Battery acid on the skin is a dangerous thing because it can cause chemical burns. However, there’s no need to worry. Just follow the safety tips I have provided in this article and you will be safe.
I have also shown you what you can do if you happen to accidentally splash battery acid on your skin. Always use common sense and extra care when working with batteries and you will be fine.