Hydrochloric acid is a strong acid that can cause severe chemical burns if it comes in contact with your skin.

Toilet cleaners, pool chemicals, and some fertilizers are common household sources of hydrochloric acid. Your stomach acid is also primarily made up of hydrochloric acid, but a protective mucus protects the inside of your stomach from damage.

Hydrochloric acid burns are one of the most frequently treated types of chemical burns. Even though only a small fraction of total burns are chemical burns, chemical burns are responsible for one-third of burn-related deaths.

Keep reading to find out the most common symptoms of a hydrochloric acid reaction and the steps you should take immediately if you spill hydrochloric acid on your skin.

Hydrochloric acid can cause damage if it comes into contact with your lungs, eyes, stomach, or skin.

If hydrochloric acid comes into contact with your skin, it can cause:

If hydrochloric acid comes into contact with your eyes, it can cause:

Chemical burns on your skin can be mild or severe depending on how much the acid is diluted and how long the acid is in contact with your skin.

Like with other types of burns, chemical burns can be categorized based on how deeply they penetrate your skin.

  • First degree. These burns only damage your top layer of skin. They often cause red and tender skin but rarely cause blisters.
  • Second degree. Seconddegree burns extend into the deep layers of your skin. They often cause painful red blisters and may need medical attention.
  • Third degree. These burns extend through your skin and into the fat tissue below. They may not cause pain if nerves become damaged but require immediate medical attention.
  • Fourth degree. Fourth degree burns extend into deep tissue layers like your tendons or bones. They may cause damage that requires limb amputation.

It’s critical to take proper precautions when handling potentially dangerous chemicals. Hydrochloric acid has the potential to cause life threatening burns.

A 2014 case study describes an accident where a 50-year-old pool cleaner’s skin was exposed to chemicals containing hydrochloric acid. The incident caused fourth degree burns that eventually led to amputation.

Symptoms of inhaling and ingesting HCl

Inhaling hydrochloric acid has the potential to seriously damage your lungs and respiratory system. It may lead to:

Ingestion of hydrochloric acid may lead to:

  • potentially permanent lip and mouth damage
  • esophagus or stomach damage
  • vomiting
  • difficulty swallowing

Hydrochloric acid burns can cause major injuries. Follow the steps below right away and call 911.

If your skin comes into contact with hydrochloric acid, it can result in severe burns that need medical attention.

If you have a chemical burn, you should follow these steps immediately:

  1. Flush your skin of the hydrochloric acid by running cool water over the affected area for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove any clothing or jewelry that came in contain with the acid.
  3. Cover your burn with a sterile gauze bandage.
  4. Flush the area again if needed.
  5. Contact 911 or seek immediate medical care if your burn is severe.

Burns larger than 3 inches across or those on your hands, feet, face, or groin require prompt medical attention.

Hydrochloric acid makes up the majority of the acid in your stomach. Cells in your stomach called parietal cells produce this acid and secrete it into your stomach to help break down food.

Even though hydrochloric acid can cause severe burns to your skin, your stomach is protected by a protective mucus layer produced by the cells that line your stomach.

When your body’s protective barrier of mucus is disrupted, stomach ulcers may form. Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and bacterial infections are the most common causes of stomach ulcers.

Skin care products don’t contain hydrochloric acid. However, many skin care products contain another acid called hyaluronic acid.

Many people mistake hyaluronic acid for hydrochloric acid. Even though the two acids sound similar, they aren’t related.

Here’s an overview of how these two acids are different:

Hydrochloric acid

  • a strong acid that can cause chemical burns
  • naturally found in your stomach
  • used in pool cleaners and tile cleaners
  • helps your body break down food

Hyaluronic acid

  • naturally found in your skin, eyes, and joints
  • often found in skin care products
  • found in some eye drops
  • used in the treatment of cataracts

Hydrochloric acid can cause a severe chemical burn if it comes into contact with your skin. It’s found in pool chemicals, some fertilizer, and some household cleaners.

You can reduce your chances of having a chemical burn by taking the proper precautions when handling dangerous chemicals:

  • Keep chemicals in a high place not reachable by children.
  • Wear protective glasses and clothing when handling chemicals.
  • Keep all your chemicals in sealed containers.
  • Minimize your use of dangerous chemicals.
  • Leave all chemicals in labeled containers.