Cement Burns – Explained
Cement is common construction material and the ones working around it can meet with cement burns. Cement burns are pretty common for the construction workers. As the cement burn is the kind of chemical burn, the burn is pretty serious. It affects the skin after a day or two. The symptoms of cement burns include skin discoloration, skin rashes, and blisters. Dead skin can appear after 1-2 days of working around cement. It can lead to severe skin irritation if not addressed timely. There may be rashes and skin bumps all over.
Cement Is Caustic
Any contact with wet cement may lead to skin burn. This is the kind of routine hazard which is commonly faced by construction workers and precasters. Such a burn is caused since concrete or cement material is caustic. When it is mixed with water, the caustic nature manifests to cause skin burns. This is the leading cause of cement burn. A safe working environment and proper training on the use of concrete material can help avoid it. The major consequence of cement burn is lost workdays. A worker has to sit back in the home and also bear the medical expenses. Cement is mainly calcium oxide when it is in dry form but takes the form of calcium hydroxide when water is added. This calcium hydroxide is alkaline with the pH of up to 13.
The Symptoms Do Not Show Immediately
As the normal human skin has the pH of 5.5, any exposure to wet cement may produce a caustic skin burn getting worse with more exposure. A construction worker might have caustic cement on the skin for hours, and the symptoms may not show immediately. But, any contact with wet cement causes damage to the skin microscopically. It is important to take the needed steps to treat the area. If you feel any burning sensation on the skin, take immediate steps as the burn can get severe. This is very important as it can cause damage to the skin.
Skin discoloration is the primary symptom of cement skin burn. The color of the affected area becomes purple-blue and progresses to ulcerations and painful burns. In some cases, there may be amputation due to cement burn. Skin redness, severe blistering of the skin is common. It may also result to allergic dermatitis. The hygroscopic, abrasive features of cement cause major damage to the skin. There are chemicals and metal compounds in dry cement to cause cement burns.
What to Do When the Skin Comes In Contact With Wet Cement?
Wet cement poses various risks. You may not feel anything immediately when the skin comes in contact with wet cement, but you have to undertake certain steps to avoid the skin burn due to cement. If the area of the skin is exposed to cement, take the following steps:
- Remove contaminated clothes off your skin and wash it thoroughly. Make sure you do not allow the cloth to come in contact with your exposed skin.
- Get rid of the wet cement from your skin and rinse the area with cold water immediately. Continue washing for 15 minutes and neutralize alkalinity by using vinegar and water solution.
- If you think that the eyes were involved too, wash your eyes for 20 minutes using fresh water
- Get medical help immediately and do not delay the process. There are various risks of cement burns, and it can pose significant hazards.
Severe Blistering Is Common
When the skin comes in contact with wet cement, it is not compulsory that the symptoms of cement burns will show only after days. They may show up immediately also. Wet cement may lead to chemical burn immediately. You may notice severe blistering around the area of cement burn. After the incident, there might be serious discomfort experienced by the person. Skin cracking, oozing, sores, blisters, and itching are common. Initial care is required. Take off the boots and clothes having the wet cement. If you find cement on the skin, wash off immediately. If wet cement stays on the skin for a longer period, it will cause cement burn.
How to Treat Cement Burns?
Get rid of specks of cement from the skin and wash off the area using water. As cement is alkaline, you need to add vinegar in the water and wash your skin with that. White vinegar is a neutralizing agent and an excellent treatment for cement burn. You may also use citrus juice from the lemon if vinegar is not available. The ones who work with cement on a regular basis, they must use pH neutral cleansers. Treating cement burns in the eyes is difficult. Every construction worker must use proper eyewear to avoid cement burn to the eyes. If cement gets inside the eyes, rinse your eyes continuously for 20 minutes. This is very important. Even if there is no pain or burning sensation, you must get in touch with an eye specialist as soon as possible.
Monitor the Skin
Get in touch with a reliable healthcare professional and keep a watch over the skin. After the skin comes in contact with wet concrete, there may be blisters, sores, caustic burn within a few days time. It is important to avoid infection and keep a watch over the skin. Initial symptoms of cement burns are skin swelling, severe itching and skin blistering. Take help from a doctor as the symptoms can get worse. To nourish the skin immediately, apply lanolin on the skin. It will hydrate and moisturize the skin. Know one thing that Portland cement leaches away the moisture of the skin.
Treatment Options for Cement Burns
The kind of treatment option you choose for cement burn depends on the severity of the skin burn. If you see the symptoms getting worse, go for antibiotic treatment. The medical practitioner will soak your skin in antiseptic like povidone and iodine to give you relief. If the case is very severe, hospitalization will be needed whereby the doctor debrides damaged and dead skin tissues. There can be various treatment options for cement burns:
- Aloe Vera gel is the best antiseptic agent which may be applied on the skin without any worry. Apply antiseptic lotion on the skin after you wash off the aloe Vera. Calendula lotion will work in the best manner. If you feel any burning sensation, immediately use an antiseptic ointment.
- Take lukewarm water in a bowl and add some coconut oil. Soak the affected area in the water for few minutes. Antioxidant-rich coconut oil can get quickly absorbed by the skin. It will safeguard your skin from any more damage.
- For healthcare and skin care, every construction worker must use proper gloves and boots. The body must have adequate coverage to prevent any cement burn
- To restore the moisture level of the skin, you can use a mixture of castor oil and almond oil on the skin
Avoid Secondary Infection
- To soothe and calm itchy, dry and irritated skin, you can use glycerin balms. They are a great way to avoid secondary infection
- As the cause of the skin blisters due to cement burn is alkalinity, you need to use pH neutral and slightly acidic soap. This will help in minimizing damage to the skin
- If there are cracks over the protective clothing, you must replace clothe completely. Repairing the cracks does not mean that the cement will not seep through.
- Pits on skin should be cleaned regularly and dressed properly to avoid infection
- If there is itching, skin sores, and skin irritation, you can use apple cider vinegar. The affected parts must be soaked in apple cider vinegar
- Lancing must be done constantly to allow the drainage of pus. It will ease pressure and also prevent the abscessed and hard skin surfaces.
Learn How to Handle Cement
Prevention is better than cure. Give proper training to your workers so that they avoid the risks of cement burns. The worker should have some hands-on experience in working with cement. If they know how to work around cement, they can avoid the dangers of cement burn. As an employer, you should schedule workplace inspections on a frequent basis to ensure that your workers are using safety precautions. Although cement burn is not such a serious issue, it is the cause of concern. Employer commitment and good training are needed to prevent cement burns. There must be a supply of 5-7 gallons of running water in the worksite. pH neutral soaps must be available at the site to help workers avoid symptoms of cement burns.
While removing the gloves, eyewear, and gloves, a worker should be careful. Every time the gloves are removed, the worker must wash off the hands with clean water. Even at home, one needs to exercise caution to avoid cement burns. Use acidic and pH-neutral soaps at home to wash your hands and legs.