Battery Acid on Skin

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Battery acid on the skin is dangerous and can cause chemical burns (also known as caustic burns). If you get battery acid on your skin, it must be treated immediately. However, treating the burn will depend on the type of battery acid you are dealing with.

The following information will explain the different kinds of battery acids, complications from contact with battery acid, and how to treat your skin if it comes into contact with battery acid. 

Household batteries


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What Is Battery Acid?

Different types of batteries contain different types of battery acid. It is easy to forget that you use items containing battery acids in everyday life, such as a car battery or household toys and electronics that use batteries. The common kinds are:

  • Household batteries (alkaline): The types of batteries you usually find in household items contain alkaline "acid," potassium hydroxide (also known as lye). It is technically a strong base rather than an acid, and can cause chemical burns.
  • Car batteries (sulphuric): Car batteries are usually lead batteries that contain sulphuric acid. It can cause severe burns, eye damage, and often requires immediate medical attention.
  • Lithium-ion batteries: Lithium-ion batteries are found in household items such as a mobile phone or e-cigarette. These types of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can cause injuries and are a fire hazard if stored incorrectly, over-charged, or over-heated. 

Symptoms of Battery Acid on Skin

When your skin comes into contact with battery acid, symptoms may not happen immediately. The damage caused by battery acid is usually localized to the area of contact. The severity depends on how long the acid is in contact with the skin and the type and strength of the acid. 

Common symptoms where battery acid come into contact with the skin include:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Tingling/numbness 
  • Redness
  • Irritation/burning
  • Blisters
  • Blackened skin

Contact Other Than With Skin

If battery acid comes into contact with the lips, eyes, is ingested, or inhaled, other symptoms can occur, such as:

  • Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Impaired or loss of vision
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasm or seizure
  • Irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, or cardiac arrest


If you are helping someone with battery acid on their skin, make sure they do not touch their mouth or eyes and ensure you protect yourself from the battery acid, too.

When to Call Poison Control

It is a good idea to call Poison Control for advice if any type of chemical burn occurs. Have the name of the kind of battery acid to hand, and inform them of where the battery acid came from and details of the incident. Poison Control can give you information on how to treat a chemical burn. 

Poison Control Hotline or 911

The Poison Control Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 800-222-1222.

If the situation is dangerous, or the patient is severely burned, unconscious, or having severe symptoms such as seizures, breathing difficulties, or chest pain—call 911 immediately. 

Treating Skin After Battery Acid Contact

Depending on the type of battery acid you have come into contact with, you can use the following steps to treat the problem. 

Alkaline Battery Acid

Follow these steps:

  1. Try to remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area if you can. However, you must be careful not to touch or spread the acid. Wear gloves to protect your hands and gently cut away material rather than dragging it over other areas of the body.
  2. Rinse the area with clean water as soon as possible for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the water to run off rather than pooling on the skin. Use a gentle water flow rather than a hard spray as this could cause more damage.
  3. Do not rub or wipe the area.
  4. Monitor symptoms. If after 20-30 minutes there is still a burning sensation, continue to rinse the area for a further 10-15 minutes and contact either a medical professional or the Poison Control Hotline if you haven't already done so. 
  5. Your burn will need to be checked and dressed appropriately. Minor burns heal well with good ongoing burn care. Contact your healthcare provider to ensure that your burn is cared for correctly.

Sulphuric Battery Acid 

Plain water can make the symptoms worse if your skin has come into contact with sulphuric acid from a lead battery. Instead, make a solution of warm, soapy water. It may sting at first, but continue to wash off the acid with the soapy solution.

Lithium-Ion Battery Explosion

Malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries can cause spontaneous fires, intense heat, and toxic gas/smoke emissions. If you have a fire and burns due to a lithium-ion battery, call 911 immediately.

Complications

Battery acid must be flushed from the skin immediately, even if it doesn't feel like it is causing damage. The longer the battery acid stays on the skin, the severe the damage that can occur. Other complications that can arise from exposure to battery acid include:

  • Chemical burn complications: Severe chemical burns can cause complications, such as infection, scarring, loss of fingers/toes, severe pain, and emotional issues. 
  • Internal damage: If battery acid is ingested, it can lead to serious internal damage if it gets stuck in the body. If you or someone you know swallows a battery, immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: A very brief encounter with alkaline battery acid can cause irritant contact dermatitis, which is redness or irritation of your skin. This is usually temporary and clears up on its own. Still, it is always best to seek medical advice if you have had contact with battery acid.
  • Eye damage: If the battery acid is transferred to your eyes, it can cause irritation and inflammation. If exposure is severe, it can lead to problems with eyesight and potentially blindness. 
  • Respiratory problems: Fumes inhaled from battery acid, particularly sulphuric or lithium-ion battery acid, can be toxic and cause difficulty breathing or damage to the lungs. 

A Word From Verywell

Battery acid exposure can range from being minor to severe. Still, regardless of severity, it is vital to seek appropriate care to prevent infection and heal damaged tissues.

Most cases of battery acid on the skin are not severe and can be treated with first aid and follow up care. However, be sure to handle any type of battery or chemical carefully reading any warning labels. 

If your skin is exposed to battery acid, seek medical attention or call the Poison Hotline. Remember to avoid spreading the battery acid to other areas of the skin and avoid contact with your eyes or mouth. 

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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