proof that wet cement can burn skin

Warning: this post contains images that some might consider graphic, grody, icky, or all of the above. Consider yourself warned. :)

Monday night Chris worked late, so I fed the kids supper, read some Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, did our Bible story and prayers, and tucked the kids in bed. I came downstairs to finish up the supper dishes, and as I was scrubbing my last pot, someone knocked on the sliding glass door just off the kitchen.

It was Chris's boss's wife (we'll call her S), and she walked in holding two gigantic gauze-type pads and a bottle of vinegar. Then she said, "Chris must not have told you I was coming? got burned today." Of course, I started imagining all kinds of terrible scenarios involving chemical (he sometimes works with agriculture-related chemicals), but she went on to tell me that it was a cement burn.

"Oh! Phew!" I thought. "How bad can that be?!"

Turns out, pretty bad.

backside of his calves (4/6/11)

Chris came home while S was still there, and oh boy. Boy oh boy. Each of his calves had horrible burns encircling his entire calf, creating a four-inch band around each of his legs. He soaked in a water/vinegar bath that night so the vinegar could stop the chemical reaction that was taking place.

The next day, he went to work and ignored his wife's persistent requests nagging to go to the doctor.

Finally around 5:30 he decided to go to the doctor.

The doctor knew he was seeing a patient with a cement burn and was expecting to see the typical small little burn he'd seen in other patients, so obviously when he walked in to see Chris's legs, he was slightly shocked. In fact, he told Chris, "WOW! That's a wicked burn!"

front of the calves (4/6/11)

It turns out that 60-70% of Chris's burns are third-degree burns, and the rest are second-degree. The doctor told him it could have gotten much much worse if he had waited another day. In fact, yesterday they didn't need to scrub the wound at all, and the cream they put on the wound helped ease the pain quite a bit. He was told he could go home, but to keep his feet elevated at all times, and take the next day off work (obviously).

So he was home today, and he had another appointment this afternoon to recheck and rewrap the burns. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be getting worse. Unfortunately, the wound had to be scraped today. Chris said he's pretty sure he left his hand-prints in the metal frame of the exam table. He's been shot once and stabbed twice (he's a former Marine), but this was the worst pain he's ever felt.

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. OUCH.

I told Chris I'd take child-birth over that any day of the week, thankyouverymuch.

inside of right calf (4/6/11)

So here's what here's what happened.

Obviously he was working with concrete. He and another guy (who had NO reaction to the cement whatsoever) were wearing tall rubber boots, but apparently they weren't tall enough. It looks like the cement that seeped in the top of the boots settled around Chris's sock line. He was wearing tall socks that went up to his calves, and you can see the worst part of the burns form a band around his calf, where the top of his socks would have been.

front of left calf (4/6/11)

This is a very rare occurrence as far as cement burns are concerned; in fact, Chris's doctor asked if he could let some other doctors and interns have a peek as well. The doctor jokingly told Chris that he's a medical marvel.

I suppose that's better than being called a freak show, right?

front of right calf (4/6/11)
Chris has worked with concrete many times in the past, and he's even had a time when he was practically coated in it from head to toe (there might be a story behind that occurrence, huh?), and he's never had a reaction to it. He assumed that meant he wasn't "sensitive" to it and therefore shouldn't ever have a problem with it.

(Something tells me that's not the case.)

(Just call me Captain Obvious.)

back of left calf (4/6/11)
Chris asked the doctor for an explanation, and here's what we learned. Wet cement is acidic, and depending on the pH levels in your body, it can react with your skin. Apparently, in the past, Chris's pH levels were such that his skin didn't react with wet cement when he was exposed to it. This time, however, his pH levels were at a level that caused the acid to start a chemical reaction in Chris's skin, which burned his flesh.

And since our pH levels change all the time - depending upon our diet, exercise, stress, sleep, and so on - you can never be sure that you won't have a reaction when your skin comes in contact with wet cement, no matter how many times you've "lucked out" in the past.

It's also known as concrete poisoning, and can affect people in all different ways.

Thus ends today's science lesson. :)

back of right calf (4/6/11)
Chris has been fore-warned that he'll probably lose some feeling in part of his calf for awhile, and he'll definitely have scarring. But that doesn't seem to bother him, so I'm thankful for that. He's quite a trooper, let me tell ya.

(I'll keep you posted on his progress. We're praying for a complication-free healing process. Obviously there are some risks for major infection. But Chris has been in great spirits. He's in more pain tonight after the scraping, but I went and picked up some extra-strength pain reliever tonight after the kids were in bed, so hopefully alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen will help dull the pain enough to sleep decent. He's hoping to work a half-day tomorrow (Thursday). I'm hoping he stays home and takes it easy.)

*Photos taken by the doctor after taking the gauze off today.
**Linked to Works For Me Wednesday, because preventing third degree burns definitely WORKS FOR ME!
***Follow up posts can be found by searching the label {papa bird's burns}


  1. OUH, OUCH, OUCH!!! We will be praying for him.

  2. Wow. I knew cement can cause burns, but I'd never seen what it can do. I enjoyed your science lesson, and I hope Chris heals quickly (and is a good patient for you)!

  3. Wow! Poor guy! I did not know that cement could do learn something new everyday don't ya! Will pray that he heals quickly.

  4. Wow, I have never seen anything like that. Prayers go out to you.

  5. Thank you for sharing! A warning to all and yes, an interesting, yet painful science lesson.
    Praying for healing!

  6. Try extra virgin, organic coconut oil on it or tea tree oil. They have been huge in healing lots of strange things at our house. I have seen cement burn when we were in Jamaica, but not that bad! Hope he heals quickly with minimal long lasting effects.


  7. @joel Thanks Tasha! We use and love tea tree oil (and it doesn't sting like alcohol! bonus!), but I never knew EVO Coconut oil had healing properties. I'll have to look for that...THANKS!


****** Your comments are a gift to me!

****** To leave a comment, you can use a Google, WordPress, or other account, OR you can just type your name by clicking "Name/URL" in the drop-down box. You can also leave an anonymous comment by clicking "Anonymous" in the drop-down box.

****** Don't forget to click on "Subscribe by Email" below the comment form! This will notify you if I reply to your comment. :)

::some of my 'pinteresting' stuff::