Battery Acid on Skin

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Battery acid can cause chemical burns, also known as caustic burns. If you get battery acid on your skin, it must be treated immediately. What kind of burn treatment, however, will depend on the type of battery acid.

This article explains the different kinds of battery acids and the potential complications of contact with them. It also discusses how to treat your skin if it comes into contact with battery acid. 

Household batteries

Robert Houser / Getty Images

What Is Battery Acid?

Different types of batteries contain different types of battery acid. The common kinds are:

  • Alkaline household batteries: Batteries typically found in household items contain the alkaline "acid" potassium hydroxide, also known as lye. It is technically a strong base rather than an acid, but it can cause chemical burns.
  • Sulphuric car batteries: Car batteries are usually lead batteries that contain sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid can cause severe burns and eye damage. These burns often require immediate medical attention.
  • Lithium-ion batteries: Lithium-ion batteries are found in items such as mobile phones and e-cigarettes. These types of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can cause injuries. They are a fire hazard if stored incorrectly, over-charged, or overheated. 

Recap

Alkaline batteries, car batteries, and lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous in different ways. Alkaline batteries and sulphuric batteries can cause chemical burns. Lithium-ion batteries can cause fires.

Symptoms of Battery Acid on Skin

Battery acid usually causes damage just to the area of contact. The severity depends on how long the acid is in contact with the skin. It also depends on the type and strength of the acid. You may not have symptoms immediately after getting battery acid on your skin. Once symptoms happen, they can include:

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

Contact Other Than With Skin

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

  • 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're helping someone who got battery acid on their skin, make sure they don't touch their mouth or eyes. Protect yourself from the battery acid, too.

When to Call Poison Control

With any type of chemical burn, it's a good idea to call Poison Control. Make sure you know the kind of battery acid when you call. Tell them where the battery acid came from and the details of the incident. Poison Control can give you information on how to treat a chemical burn. 

Poison Control Hotline or 911

Call 911 immediately if:

  • The situation is dangerous
  • The patient is severely burned
  • The patient is unconscious
  • The patient is having severe symptoms such as seizures, breathing difficulties, or chest pain

For less severe burns, the Poison Control Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (800) 222-1222.

Treating Skin After Battery Acid Contact

Treatment depends on the type of battery acid.

Alkaline Battery Acid

Follow these steps if you or someone else has contacted alkaline battery acid:

  1. Remove clothing and jewelry from the affected area if you can. Be very careful not to touch or spread the acid. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Gently cut away material rather than dragging it over other parts of the body.
  2. Rinse the area with clean water as soon as possible. Run water over the skin for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a gentle water flow rather than a hard spray, which could cause more damage. Make sure the water runs off and does not pool on the skin.
  3. Do not rub or wipe the area.
  4. Monitor symptoms. If there is still a burning sensation after 20-30 minutes, keep rinsing the area for another 10-15 minutes. Contact either a medical professional or the Poison Control Hotline if you haven't already done so. 
  5. The burn will need to be checked and dressed appropriately. Minor burns heal well with good ongoing burn care. Contact a doctor to ensure that the burn is cared for correctly.

Sulphuric Battery Acid 

Sulphuric acid from a lead battery should not be rinsed with plain water. Plain water can make symptoms worse. Instead, make a solution of warm, soapy water. It may sting at first, but keep washing the area with the soapy solution to completely remove the acid.

Recap

Battery acid needs to be immediately removed from the skin. For an alkaline burn, use clear water. For sulphuric acid, use warm, soapy water.

Lithium-Ion Battery Explosion

Lithium-ion batteries can malfunction, causing:

  • Spontaneous fires
  • Intense heat
  • Toxic gas/smoke emissions

If a lithium-ion battery causes a fire and burns, call 911 immediately.

Complications

Battery acid must be flushed from the skin immediately. This is important even if it doesn't feel like it is causing damage. The longer the battery acid stays on the skin, the more severe the damage can be. Other complications that happen after 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 you or someone you know swallows a battery, call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (800) 498-8666 right away.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: A very brief encounter with alkaline battery acid can cause irritant contact dermatitis. This is redness or irritation of your skin. It 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 battery acid gets in 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 can be toxic and cause difficulty breathing or damage to the lungs. Sulphuric battery acid can be particularly harmful to the lungs.

Recap

Battery acid can cause other complications, like eye damage and respiratory problems. If swallowed, batteries can cause serious internal damage. 

Summary

Battery acid can cause severe burns. If your skin comes into contact with battery acid, it's important to take action right away.

Treatment depends on the type of acid. Alkaline battery acid should be rinsed with clear water. Use warm, soapy water for sulphuric battery acid. Always seek medical care or call poison control for any kind of chemical burn. 

A Word From Verywell

Battery acid exposure can range from minor to severe. Most cases are mild and can be treated with first aid and follow-up care. Still, regardless of severity, it is vital to seek medical care to prevent infection and heal damaged tissues.

Take care to handle any type of battery or chemical carefully. Always read the warning labels. If your skin is exposed to battery acid, seek medical attention or call the Poison Control Hotline. Remember to avoid spreading the battery acid to other parts of the skin and avoid contact with your eyes or mouth. 

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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By Helen Massy
Helen Massy, BSc, is a freelance medical and health writer with over a decade of experience working in the UK National Health Service as a physiotherapist and clinical specialist for respiratory disease.