How to Treat Welding Burns

Welding is a dangerous job. With all the heat and dangerous equipment involved, there is always a high chance that someone could get hurt.

There are always several different kinds of problems that could arise during the welding process, but the main question then is:

How do you treat welding burns?

To treat a welding burn on the skin, first, make sure you get out of the heat and make the burn comfortable. Treat it like you’d treat a sunburn.

For flash burns of the eye, immediately contact a doctor. A doctor will likely give you dilating drops to relax your eye muscles, cover the eyes, and prescribe you antibiotics.

Of course, injuries and problems are almost unavoidable. No matter how much you try by using safe methods and protective gear, you cannot completely eradicate the possibility of getting hurt.

Still, by keeping in mind the correct steps to follow if or when a problem arises, you can minimize their effects. Using protective shielding gear is also essential, but even the best of equipment cannot completely remove the possibility of injury.

Types of welding burns

Before we look at how to prevent or treat welding burns, let’s look at some of the types of burns that welders will usually face.

Flash burns

Flash burns are one of the most common types of burns and are also known as welder’s flash or arc eye.

This happens when your eyes are exposed to the dangerous ultraviolet rays emitted by the welding torch, and because the torch will always omit these harmful rays, you are at risk of a flash burn every time you work on a welding job.

In essence, a flash burn is just like a sunburn, except that instead of being on your skin, it is on your eye.

The part that is usually most affected is the cornea, but fortunately, it usually heals on its own. However, this can go as far as to cause a loss in vision if it remains untreated, and can even get infected.

Skin burns

Another common kind of burn is those that happen on your skin because of sparks and patter. You might have seen people feeding wires with their bare hands, or wearing clothes made of synthetic fabric.

Many times, people who have not suffered injuries or burns during dangerous processes become lax with their protective gear and equipment, and as a result, suffer from them later.

Like flash burns, skin burns can usually heal on their own depending on the severity, but regardless of how bad the burn itself is, it is best to get medical attention to make sure there is no risk of infection, and the problem doesn’t escalate.

How to treat welding burns

Skin burns

Burns can be caused by any number of things – fire, hot water, even something as simple as ironing your clothes can cause a burn.

However, welding burns are different not just because of the extremely high heat, but also because of the radiation and toxic fumes present in the environment. That is why treating welding burns immediately and properly is extremely important before it becomes infected or ulcerated.

Get out of the heat

The first thing you should do when you get any burn is to get out of the heat. Burns get aggravated when they are subjected to a lot of heat, so the first thing anyone should do is to take off the protective gear and sit somewhere cool to get the burn out of the heat. Cooling it off can not just make it feel better – though, of course, this is only temporary – you can also use this time and space to examine the burn and make sure you are treating it appropriately.

Making it comfortable

Arc welding burns are caused by UV rays, which is just like a sunburn. Therefore, to treat such a burn, you should do it the way you’d treat a sunburn.

If it is starting to blister, it has gone beyond a second-degree burn and needs a doctor’s supervision. Until you receive medical help, you can make yourself more comfortable by putting the part of the body that has been burned into cold water to decrease the pain.

Avoid ice cubes because they will attach to the burned skin and, when removed, can pull it away with them.

If there is no blistering, then you can use topical creams or aloe gel. This will draw out the heat and allow your skin to heal faster, as well as prevent peeling.

If the problem persists, you should call a doctor and get the situation assessed properly.

Flash Burns

Diagnosis

Flash burns are harder to diagnose than visible skin burns, but symptoms include pain that can be mild to severe and usually starts a few hours after the burn incident.

Your eyes may also be bloodshot and watery and may feel like there is something in it. You might also have blurred vision.

To properly diagnose flash burns, doctors may use anesthetic drops to numb your eyes long enough that they can be examined properly. Once numbed, the doctor will put orange dye in your eyes that will show any damage within your eyes when they use blue light.

The dye is harmless, so you shouldn’t worry about that, and it will wash away with your tears.

Dilating Drops

Your doctor will likely use dilating drops to let your eye muscles relax, which can ease the pain and let your eyes rest so that they can heal.

Your pupils will look bigger than usual, and the larger amount of light entering your eyes may make it difficult to keep them open but will help heal faster. This effect can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days.

Dressing

If the burn is severe, your eyes may be covered with a padded dressing to give them rest and let them heal. Make sure not to drive with eye patches on.

Antibiotics

You may also be prescribed antibiotics to stop the burn from getting infected. If you are given antibiotics, you need to make sure that you follow your dosage cycle regularly to make them effective.

Home remedies

If you want to first try a home remedy (which I don’t recommend for flash burns), check out this video that gives you 10 different options:

Preventing burns

Although it is important to know how to treat burns, it is much better to make sure that you have the safety equipment and protective gear to avoid them in the first place.

Make sure to wear good quality welding helmets that protect the face, neck, and ears. You should also have safety goggles for eye protection, even under the helmet.

Make sure that you are wearing gloves and aprons designed for welding work, and that they are in good shape, without any holes. Flame resistant earplugs and earmuffs are also important to keep any sparks from getting into your ears.

Before you begin welding, make sure that you are not holding on to any combustible items such as lighters or matches, and that your clothing does not have open pockets or cuffs which can trap molten metal or sparks.

You should also make sure that your workplace is not cluttered with loose wires or any other such dangerous things that could cause tripping and accidents.

Related questions

What kind of injuries can you get from welding?

Aside from the welder’s flash and skin burns, welding can also cause breathing problems because of all the toxic fumes in the environment that could enter the respiratory system. Aside from this, welding also produces a very loud sound that could result in hearing loss.

Can you get skin cancer from welding?

Welding uses a lot of ultraviolet (UV) rays during the process, and repeated, prolonged exposure to these rays can result in problems such as skin cancer. This becomes even more of a risk if there are a lot of hard and smooth surfaces around you, which can reflect these rays even more.

How do you treat an explosion burn?

Treating explosion burns is not very different from treating other burns caused by heat or fire. You should gently clean the wound and cool it down with lukewarm water and avoid using butter or oil on the burn. Remove any jewelry or accessories that can cause further issues because the area will swell. Use antibiotics to avoid any infections that could take place.

About Pierre Young

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Hey, I'm Pierre Young a qualified AWS Certified Welder. I got into welding in 2009 as a side hustle. Ever since then, I've been doing all kinds of welds - both for business and pleasure. While immersing myself in this wonderful hobby, I've learned from hands-on experience what welding gear works and what doesn't. Welding Headquarters is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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