What to do if you witness an acid attack

Over the past four years, there has been a significant spike in acid attacks in the Uk and around the world. In 2016, there were 454 attacks compared to 216 in 2015 and 162 in 2012, according to the BBC. While full figures haven’t been made available for this year, there has been several high-profile instances reported over the past couple of months alone. Last month, the Evening Standard reported that six people had acid thrown over them in London in just 24 hours.

The instances have become so prevalent that senior doctors have now waded in to warn bystanders that they can make a real difference to the victim if they act fast.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, doctors at Barts Health NHS Trust in London and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine call for public education in how to help acid attack victims explaining “bystanders who come to the aid of the victim of an attack can have an important role in minimising further injury”.

The first step, consultant emergency physician Johann Grundlingh and colleagues write, is to remove the victim from further exposure as soon as possible.

“Irrigation of the affected area with copious amounts of water is vital to remove the chemical and should be performed as soon as possible to minimise the long term effects of scarring and need for surgical reconstruction,” they write.

ageing skin surgery

Even when the victim is in the casualty ward, it is important to continue washing off all the acid with water “starting at the area of contamination or the face or eyes”.

Last month, the London Ambulance Service also issued advice on what to do if you or someone you witness has suffered a chemical burn.

You should seek emergency care if:

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Motorcycle delivery drivers and motorcyclists demonstrate in central London in July following a spate of acid attacks

“The assailants’ intention is not to kill, but to maim and disfigure,” they write . “As the chemical is often thrown into the face, the victims are likely to be left blind and severely disfigured”


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