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Chemical decontamination in the emergency department




Nogué S, Amigó M, Uría E, Fernández F, Velasco V



Secci√≥n de Toxicolog√≠a Cl√≠nica, Enfermer√≠a de Urgencias, √Ārea de Urgencias, Hospital Cl√≠nic, Barcelona, Spain. Departamento de Inorg√°nica, Facultad de Qu√≠micas, Universidad de Barcelona, Spain.



Exposure to chemicals harmful to the skin and/or eyes is a common reason for seeking
emergency care. Our aim was to describe the characteristics of patients treated in the
chemical decontamination unit of an area referral hospital. This 18-month descriptive
observational study evaluated the epidemiologic, toxicologic, clinical, and therapeutic
characteristics of cases treated by a chemical decontamination unit within an emergency
department. Thirty-six patients with a mean (SD) age of 42.8 (16.7) years were
identified; 24 (66.7%) were women. The chemical products involved were usually
caustic substances (52.8%), solvents or degreasers (19.4%), glues (13.9%), or selfdefense
sprays (8.3%). Accidents in the home (41.7%) or workplace (36.1%) were the
most common reasons for chemical contamination; violent attacks accounted for 8.3%
of the cases and there was 1 suicide attempt. The eye (75%), skin (19.4%) or both (2
cases) were affected. The patient who committed suicide injured his face when ingesting
sulfuric acid and died a few hours later. First aid consisted of rinsing with water, water
and soap, or diphoterine. Follow-up eye care was given to all patients whose eyes were
contaminated; 3 patients reported persistent eye symptoms. One patient reported a
residual skin lesion.


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