You may have read that title and wondered, “is that even a thing?” And the answer is an absolute yes. Concrete burns are painful and are significant because they often aren’t felt at the initial point of contact, getting worse as time goes by. Concrete burns are slow to appear, and if it is inhaled, it can cause a dangerous chemical burn that may not show for hours or possibly days.
What is a Concrete Burn
Due to the nature of concrete, burns can have varying effects. In its powder form, inhalation is easily possible. Concrete contains tiny, abrasive particles that can also cause small cuts. Typical signs of a concrete burn include redness, swelling, blistering, discoloration, itchiness, and bleeding. Because the cement that makes up concrete is alkaline in nature, skin irritations from exposure will get worse before they get better. Signs of inhalation dangers include coughing, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and vomiting. If left untreated, concrete burns can also damage muscles and bones. Prolonged exposure to the skin usually occurs if concrete gets trapped under gloves, clothing, or jewelry. Often, people don’t notice the issue until it’s already severe.
When working with concrete, it’s important to follow a few safety tips. Wash your hands often, especially during breaks and before and after eating, with a pH neutral soap if possible. Do this thoroughly before putting on gloves to make sure particles are not left on your skin. If you have jewelry on, check that no concrete has gotten underneath them. Try to keep your work clothes separate from other clothes as they will hold on to concrete power from the day. It may even be a good idea to change your clothes before getting into your vehicle or going into your home.
Treatment of these special burns must be done carefully, and those treating the burns must know it was from exposure to cement. If not, an ointment or other treatment could be applied mistakenly, trapping the corrosive material to the skin, which will make the burn worse. Treatment for inhaled concrete powder is to quickly remove the person from the source and into fresh air. If swallowed, rinse out the person’s mouth and lips thoroughly. If there’s contact with skin, remove all contaminated clothing and rinse the suspected area with water for a minimum of 15 minutes. If any symptoms persist or you can’t get the person to feel better, call 911 or get them to a doctor.
Because concrete burns can be serious, it’s important to be prepared with preventative knowledge as well as appropriate emergency response procedures. Shield-Safety sells a special concrete exposure burn kit that includes everything you need to decontaminate and neutralize the caustic effects of these burns. It includes an eye wash, a burn neutralizer wash, an empty bucket with lid for rinsing or other needs, splash goggles, water bottle, Tyvek suit, disposable towels, and neoprene gloves. These products relieve irritation and prevents further burning. However, if burns are severe, go to the hospital for further care. For questions about burn care or other emergency topics, reach out to Shield-Safety.