Acid attacks on the face and what to do if it happens to you

These days I always carry a bottle of water in my car just in case I am attacked with acid! I know it sounds crazy and even paranoid but there were less than 200 acid attacks in 2014 and nearly 450 in 2016!

People have died from having acid thrown at them, many just having fun in a bar or even sitting on a park bench, namely a nurse from Buckinghamshire.

Acid Throwing is also known as an Acid Attack or also termed ‘Vitriolage’. Basically, any kind if corrosive substance thrown onto another person with the intention to harm, maim or disfigure, even torture or kill that person. Did you know that the palm of your hand is equivalent to 1% of your body’s surface area? This is how a burn is generally measured on a victim.

The most common types of acid used are Sulphuric and Nitric Acid. Of course, different acids will pose different hazards to the body, depending on what type of acid is used in the attack.

The skin is generally divided into three layers;

Epidermis, Dermis and subcutaneous layer

As you can see on the arm diagram above the burns are worse as you look down from arm to hand.

I know that this Blog may be disturbing to some readers, but if someone remembers it and survives an acid attack because of the advice given here, then it was worth writing it!

So how do you treat an acid burn, especially on the face?


  1. Danger is the very first thing to be aware of and avoid, especially if your attacker is at large. Ensure the safety of you and others around initially to make sure that another attack does not occur. If someone else has been attacked, ensure that their airway is maintained and call an ambulance as soon as possible, because a damaged airway can lead to an obstructed airway which will imminently lead to the death of the victim
  2. The best thing to do immediately is to apply cold water over the burnt area a soon as possible. Cold running water is much better than applying a wet cloth. Try and keep replenishing the water as much as possible. Make sure that the water is clean and uncontaminated and cold is preferable to warm for hot. After about 45 minutes the pain should subside so remember to keep the water coming! There is an old saying that I tell me First Aid learners when it comes to burns and that is; The Solution to Pollution is Dilution’
  3. If possible, try and remove any jewellery and clothing that have made contact with any acid.
  4. Do not apply any creams to the burnt area, because it could affect any treatment that is administered by a doctor.
  5. If at all possible, try and wrap the burn in cling film to prevent any contamination and also to protect the delicate skin under the burnt areas.
  6. It is recommended to get a referral or self refer to a Physiotherapist, especially if there is any nerve damage.
  7. Some people are offered skin grafts, especially if the acid has damaged the face. Of course, the chance of scarring is minimised if water is poured onto the face at the time of the attack, because the acid has not had a chance to penetrate the deeper tissues of the skin.
  8. Counselling may be recommended, especially if the scars are obvious and have caused psychological damage to the victim.


Lets hope that you never have acid thrown at you or even accidently spill a toxic substance on your face by accident. The essential things to note are above with particular reference to your personal safety.

The law has recently changed with regard to possessing dangerous substances that can burn someone and an immediate arrest and imprisonment is now on the cards to the would be assailant.