CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-5661; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: June 23, 1999
UI burn specialist encourages safe use of household
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Stop! Before using caustic chemicals
to declog that drain or scrub that stove, make sure you have taken the proper
safety precautions, warns a University of Iowa burn specialist in a recent
Lucy A. Wibbenmeyer, M.D., UI assistant professor of surgery,
and her colleagues reviewed 19 years of records from the UI Hospitals and
Clinics burn unit. Although chemical burns made up only a small portion of
the overall 2,763 cases, Wibbenmeyer is concerned about the number and severity
of household chemical burns.
"From our analysis, I believe the public needs more education
on the safe use of household chemicals, such as drain decloggers and oven
cleaners," she said.
Household chemicals caused 14 percent of the chemical
burns that the hospital burn unit staff treated during the 19-year period.
Of those cases, almost half (46.2 percent) required grafting. Wibbenmeyer
hopes that increasing people's awareness of the caustic nature of these chemicals
and how to handle them and any spills will help decrease the number of household
chemical burn cases.
"To prevent household chemical burns, people just need
to use common sense," she said.
- Locking up all chemicals and keeping them away from
- Reading the cleaner instructions before use and wearing
- Wearing eye protection if there is any chance that
the substance might splash.
Should an individual become burned, simply washing the
affected area is not enough, Wibbenmeyer said.
"You must flush the area with water immediately and keep
flushing. You can't stop," she said. "That is the best thing that you can
do to treat one of these burns and decrease the severity of the burn. It is
also important to make sure that you remove any chemical-soaked clothing from
Wibbenmeyer also suggests consulting a physician. It is
difficult enough for trained medical personnel to make a determination on
a burn, let alone an average person.
"Burns tend to deepen over the first 24 to 48 hours, especially
chemical burns," Wibbenmeyer said. "The earlier people can get medical attention,
While enroute to the hospital, Wibbenmeyer recommends
continuing to flush the affected area or keeping
it submerged in water.
"That would be ideal," Wibbenmeyer said. "At the very
least, they should flush for 30 minutes or until symptoms, burning and pain
To see a physician at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, a
person needs only to go to the burn unit on the 8th floor of the John Colloton
Pavilion. The staff sees outpatients 24 hours a day without first requiring
a referral from the hospital's Emergency Treatment Center.