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There has been a lot in the news about acid attacks. This is not a surprise considering that they are on the rise. This post is going to cover the basics from what an acid attack is to how to avoid becoming a victim and what to do if you are a victim or need to help or treat someone that has been attacked.
What is an acid attack?
An acid attack is when someone has any highly caustic acid thrown on them. 80% of acid attack victims are women but that is changing because people are using acid as a weapon for a lot of reasons.
It may be shocking to some but the rate of acid attacks in the United Kingdom is much higher for men because gangs are using acid as a weapon.
In the past a typical acid attack victim was a woman that was seen as doing wrong by a man and his family. For example, there is the case of the girl who at 15 refused to be married off to a man that was a great deal older than her. For this exercise of rights she was punished while waiting at her school bus stop . Two men approached her and one held her down while the other threw acid on her face.
Acid attacks are now occurring as a way to get vengeance on others for various reasons. Gang members have started using acid as a weapon against each other.
Recent Acid Attack Threats At Protests
The recent threats of acid attacks against political protesters is atrocious and should not be considered acceptable no matter where you land on the political spectrum. No one has the right to blind others and permanently disfigure them just because they don’t agree on something. It is heinous that this behavior is tolerated to the degree it is.
If anything it proves that the idea is there in the mind of some that this is something worth considering doing to those they disagree with. The level of contempt and hate that fuels such thoughts and actions can be hard to imagine.
You cannot legislate away the capacity to do violence and harm to other living beings.
People will find a way to hurt others if it is something they really want to do. No matter how hard it is or some to accept, banning things doesn’t stop humans from harming and killing each other because you can turn a lot of things into a weapon if you want to do so. Sure there are methods that can kill more people at a faster rate but banning those methods leads to other methods being improved.
If you want to ban the things that can be used as a weapon then we need to ban everything from fertilizer for farms to oven cleaner for your kitchen. Oh and no car batteries can be allowed either.
It is just not feasible or realistic to attempt to ban everything that can do harm.
We need to look at what causes people to use things to harm others, but that is a lot harder to do than just pass a few laws and hope people follow them.
Types of Acid
Sulfuric acid is widely used and causes very severe burns. It can dissolve clothing fast. It is easy to get because it is used in so many products. Car batteries are an easy source. Common household drain cleaners are full of sulfuric acid since something strong is needed to dissolve the hair and grease that can clog drains over time.
This acid is widely used to create synthetic fertilizers and in explosives. It is not as likely to be used in an acid attack as sulfuric or hydrochloric acid.
Hydrochloric acid is very harmful, but it is not as strong as sulfuric acid. It is sometimes called muriatic acid. It is used in house hold cleaners, particularly those that are used to clean porcelain and tile in bathroom areas. It is also used to clean swimming pools. This is the same acid that Antifa was threatening to use recently.
Avoiding Acid Attacks and Preventing Attacks on Loved Ones
Take it very seriously if a loved one comes to you about an abusive partner or spouse. If you are being abused, seek help and protection if at all possible.
Acid attacks are often a form of vengeance if a man feels they have been dishonored. Sometimes family members may be the actual people that commit the atrocity so a woman in need may need to get to a place where they can stay and be safe.
A lot of people may be too afraid to speak out about abuse and they may not realize just how serious the level of danger is until it is too late.
Watch out for signs that loved ones are being abused.
Those that are being abused can be very scared of coming forward. Look for any obvious signs or behaviors that are just not right. I know when someone in my family was beaten by her common law husband, she would use excuses like a car door hit her in the eye. It was pretty obvious to me even as a child that she was covering it up.
Practice good situational awareness
Keeping your distance from others is easier said than done if you live in an urban environment. Try to keep a decent distance between yourself and others when you can and be aware of 1-2 people moving in on you fast.
Always watch out for what is going on around you. If you know that someone wishes you harm then watch out for them. While it sounds awful to have to be on guard so much, it is for the best.
Try not to be too predictable in your routine if you feel that you or someone with you has serious enemies. Take different routes to and from work or school and try to park where the visibility is good.
Watch for hostile body language or intent looks. People have a hard time masking emotions and that can be to your advantage if you notice it. Acid attacks are sometimes perpetrated by multiple people because it makes it a lot easier to attack someone if they are incapacitated by the force of another person.
Protective gear like glasses can help but may not be practical all the time. The ability to blend in a crowd can help keep you safer.
Attire that makes you not easy to pick out in a crowd can also be helpful if someone is trying to pick you out or follow you. This means covering up any distinguishable hair, tattoos, birth marks, etc. Wearing a hat can also make it harder for someone to positively identify you.
Carry personal protection
In any situation where someone is trying to do you harm, it is good to have some type of weapon in case you get an opportunity to use it and save yourself greater harm.
Protect your face and eyes first.
If you are forced to block acid being hurled at you, do whatever you can to protect your delicate eyes and face. While acid damage to arms and other skin is horrible enough, your face and especially your eyes is even more susceptible to damage and you risk ingesting acid through your mouth if someone throws it in your face.
Be aware and involved with whom your teens hang out with or date.
I was homeschooled and didn’t date much and had a pretty small group of friends but I can tell you one thing, my Dad sure kept tabs on who I spent time with and would tell me in an instant if someone was no good. Sure this made me a bit angry or sad at times but I am so glad that he did this. He was a parent first and a friend second. Part of parenting is making your teen angry at times and that is a hard thing but as a parent it is your job.
Teens do not have the life experience you have. It may hurt both of you to disagree now but the lessons learned will be to everyone’s benefit in the future.
While dating and personal relationships are a major factor in a lot of acid attacks, remember that in the UK it is gang violence that is the leading cause of acid attacks. Your kid doesn’t have to be in a gang to be a victim, they just have to make someone in a gang angry enough to want revenge or make someone angry that is willing to pay for someone else to do the actual acid attack.
Don’t think just because you don’t have a daughter you don’t have anything to worry about. Boys fall victim to bad things too and get involved with people they should not. Remember that men make up the majority of acid attack victims in the UK.
What to do if you or someone near you is attacked with acid
Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional. These steps are based solely on my research at reputable medical sites and the advise given to people in the UK by the media.
- Evaluate the situation before taking action. Where is the acid? Is the victim conscious?
- Use a barrier for your hands such as gloves to remove any clothing or accessories on the victim that appear to have acid on them. Acid can penetrate quickly so the sooner you act the better.
- Rinse the skin that has come into contact with the acid. Continuously rinse for 15-20 minutes or until advanced medical care arrives on the scene. Do this gently. Never use a lot of water pressure or you risk damaging tissue still further. Try to use clean water if at all possible since dirty water can increase the risk of infection.
- Wrap the area in thin sterile gauze to protect it from germs, dirt, debris, and sunlight that can add to the level of pain and sensitivity the victim is experiencing.
- Get professional medical attention immediately.
Never try to neutralize acid on the skin using baking soda, milk, or other base. Always rinse with a gentle to moderate stream of water. Too much pressure is a bad thing.
A lot of the literature available tells people to not try to neutralize or do any type of advanced treatment if someone is an acid attack victim. When a strong acid and a strong base combine the reaction can be very violent and cause more excessive long term damage. Rinsing with clean water is best.
Always make sure to use gloves to remove any dried on acid too. Just because acid is dry does not mean it is not extremely harmful too.
What to do if there is no advanced medical care available.
Note: It is always best to call for help or get a victim to advanced medical care if available. Acid attacks are serious and should only be treated entirely by you or your group if there is no other option. The sooner proper medical attention is received the better.
Aftercare and Infection After an Attack
Your doctor will give you specific instructions and medications but I am going to discuss typical initial treatment in case it is a long emergency and you are on your own in terms of treatment.
The area affected by the acid will need to be kept clean. This means changing out dressings and wound coverings 2-3 times per day and possibly even more often at the beginning stages.
Doctors have concluded that covered wounds heal faster overall because the scab is protected and there is less risk of infection. It is amazing how fast infection can set in when times get tough and the weather is humid and warm or people are having to live under less hygienic conditions.
Acids and caustic substances dissolve flesh, bone, and muscle. The damage they cause is serious enough without the risk of severe infection but it is there. If someone is burned badly with chemicals, it is probably a good idea to put them on a course of preventive antibiotics as soon as possible.
A body is stressed enough trying to repair and rebuild after such an atrocity occurs so it is very susceptible to infection. While I try to avoid recommending antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, a chemical burn is one time when you should just go ahead and use them before an infection even has a chance.
Antibiotic Choices When Treating Acid Burns
A variety of antibiotics can be used to prevent infection of skin and muscle tissue so that is a good thing. Just because you don’t have one antibiotic doesn’t mean the other won’t work. For severe infections or prevention I like to use Cephelexin to be safe but others will work. I highly recommend anyone that wants some guidelines for antibiotics to purchase a copy of Joseph and Amy Alton’s book, “Alton’s Antibiotics and Infectious Disease”. They are trained medical professionals.
Aloe Vera applied at wound changing times can help chemical burns heal.
I recommend either growing your own aloe or buying some of the clear shelf stable variety to put back in your medical kit for treating skin conditions and speeding up the healing process of any scratches, wounds, etc. The aloe helps out with moisture issues that can occur too.
A good diet will help with healing
Since acid attacks result in tissue damage and often tissue loss, it is important for the victim to have good food that is high in protein and nutrients. The human body can repair itself to an amazing degree but it has to have the building blocks necessary to do so. Make sure a good multi vitamin is part of the healing process if at all possible.
Advanced tissue loss and disfigurement
Acid attacks leave a lot of damage. There are a lot of victims that have gone through many surgeries over the years in the attempt to undo the damage caused by the acid.
There are non profit groups that help people every day and there are many inspiring programs that help acid attack survivors improve their lives and have great economic opportunities. In India there is a program where survivors own and operate their own cafe for example.
During good economic and social times it will be easier to get help but during hard times or SHTF people may have to live with disfigurement and scarring indefinitely. In the case of a severe acid attack, there is nothing that will help undo the damage except for solutions provided by advanced medical techniques and major surgeries.
Of course anyone that is the victim of an acid attack or close to a victim will have some major psychological effects to deal with. The severity of the attack and the resulting disfigurement can be a factor is how hard it is for someone to deal with the consequences.
If someone survives and has physical disfigurement that is largely treatable, then they may have a greater sense of hope than someone that has damage that will require a remarkable number of surgeries and lost days that they can never get back. It depends on the person, their mindset, and the specifics of the attack and damage.
It is important for acid survivors to be treated with kindness and compassion. Someone that has experienced this horror will be looking towards others to see if they act repulsed or grossed out when looking at them.
Children that do not understand can seem very cruel so it may be best to keep them away for at least a little while and explain to them why someone looks a certain way and how they are feeling. Kids catch on fast but they need a little more time to absorb things so they can shoulder heavier burdens.
Acid Survivors Non-Profits
Below are just a few of the organizations that are working hard to educate people about acid attacks and offer a variety of assistance and support for victims and their families.