Public education on helping acid attack victims is needed, doctors claim
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People who witness acid attacks can have an “important role” in minimising the harm to the victim, according to doctors.
Dr Johann Grundlingh, consultant emergency physician at Barts Health NHS Trust, along with emergency medicine trainee Dr Jessie Payne and Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, claim that people need to be educated on how to deal with injuries caused by acid and other noxious substances.
The trio, writing in the British Medical Journal, say the “latest menace on our streets” is leaving victims blind or severely disfigured, and is causing physical and mental distress for many.
They suggest that corrosive substances now “seem to be a replacement for carrying knives”.
The comments come after a recent spike in corrosive substance attacks, many of which happened in in east London.
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According to Met police data, there have been more than 1,800 reports of attacks using corrosive fluids across the capital since 2010.
The authors wrote: “Already 2017 has seen a big increase in acid attacks in the UK, relative to 2016. Whereas in the past most of the attacks were related to robberies, corrosive substances now seem to be a replacement for carrying knives.
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They added: “Public education is needed on how to deal with these injuries, as immediate treatment can substantially improve the outcome. Similarly, ambulance service responders and health professionals in emergency departments must have clear guidance on immediate steps to minimise secondary harm and training on how to deal with these devastating, life changing attacks.
“The medical director of the London Ambulance Service has provided advice on how to approach acid burns and advises thorough irrigation after removing contaminated clothing.
“Bystanders who come to the aid of the victim of an attack can have an important role in minimising further injury.
“The victim should be removed from ongoing 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.”