Care and Treatment
The first thing that should be done when the acid gets in contact with the skin is to flush the burned flesh with water for at least 60 minutes and to wash off the acid with water for as long as possible. Emergency treatment at hospitals should include cleaning and bandaging the burns, and relieving any breathing problems caused by acid fumes.
Infection is a major danger because the dead tissue surrounding the deep burns becomes easily infected and prevents the burns from healing. Infection may spread to the healthy part of the skin, and may even kill the victim.
Infection can develop and spread at any stage during the weeks and months right after the attack. Thus, the wounds need to be kept clean and antibiotics need to be given to fight infection.
The eyes are very vulnerable to infection and can cause blindness. It is very important to ensure that the victims can close their eyes, preventing them from becoming dry and infected. Surgery may be needed to rebuild the eyelids, if they were destroyed by the acid, or to remove thick scars around the eyes as burns heal.
Eating enough food is vital because victims’ bodies require a lot of energy to fight infection and heal wounds.
This may be difficult if the victim has burns around the mouth and has difficulty in swallowing, or cannot afford the necessary diet.
It can take three to twelve months for burn wounds to heal. Thick scars, which are painful and itchy, grow over the healed burns. The scars grow and change over one to two years. As the scars thicken and contract, they can cause permanent disability by stiffening joints and restricting movement. For example, the scarring on the neck and shoulders can prevent a patient from moving his head or arms. Doctors may need to perform multiple operations to release the scars and graft new skin over them. Scars may also grow over the nostrils or ear canals, and surgery is required to remove them.
Long periods of physical therapy are needed to minimise victims’ lack of movement from scarring, and special elastic bandages can dramatically reduce the thickness and stiffness of scars.
The final stage of treatment is to try and restore, as much as is possible, the appearance of the victim. By then, the wounds ought to have healed completely, and the full extent of scarring and deformities of the body visible. The victim may require multiple operations over a period of two to three years at this stage.
ASFI was developed a new approach TRAUMA INFORMED CARE for dealing with survivors who are often severely traumatized as a result of the nightmarish experience they go through in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Details of this approach can be read about in the Sourcebook.