Hazards of Chemicals and Gases
Treating Cold-Contact Burns
Workers will rarely come in contact with a cryogenic liquid if proper handling procedures are
used. In the unlikely event of contact with a liquid or cold gas, a cold-contact "burn" may occur.
Actually, the skin or tissue freezes. Medical assistance should be obtained as soon as possible.
In the interim, the emergency measures presented in Table 2 are recommended.
Emergency Measures for Treating Cold-Contact Burns
Remove any clothing that may restrict circulation to the frozen area. Do not rub
frozen parts, as tissue damage may result.
As soon as practical, immerse the effected part in warm water (not less than
105 F or more than 115 F, or 40 C to 46 C). Never use dry heat. The victim
should be in a warm room, if possible.
If the exposure has been massive and the general body temperature is depressed,
the patient should be totally immersed in a warm-water bath. Treatment for shock
should be provided.
Frozen tissues are painless and appear waxy and yellow. They will swell and be
painful and prone to infection when thawed. Do not rewarm rapidly. Thawing
may require 15 to 60 minutes and should continue until the pale blue tint of the
skin turns pink or red. Morphine or tranquilizers may be required to control the
pain during thawing and should be administered under professional medical
If the frozen part of the body thaws before the doctor arrives, cover the area with
dry sterile dressings and a large, bulky protective covering.
Alcoholic beverages and smoking decrease blood flow to the frozen tissues and
should be prohibited. Warm drinks and food may be administered.
Some liquified gases require special precautions. For example, when liquid oxygen is handled,
all combustible materials, especially oil or gases, should be kept away. Smoking or open flames
should never be permitted where liquid oxygen is stored or handled. NO SMOKING signs
should be posted conspicuously in such areas.