Is Welding Flash Burn as Dangerous as Sunburn?

Welding is quite intense. You do it with caution. You take precautions and go all the way to avoid any kind of damage that can happen.

But there are instances that creep up no matter how cautious you are. A minute lapse of concentration can cost you your safety, health or in rare cases – your life.

And today I am going to tell you a common result of safety flaw during welding – flash burn. 

It is common to hear that a welding flash burn is the same as sunburn and that they affect one’s health just like the latter. Is this true?

Is a Welding Flash Burn as Dangerous as a Sunburn

Welding burns are of two types: flash burns and other skin burns. Flash burns are the same as sunburns. Both are the result of intense UV rays that falls on a surface. But they differ on their sources.

While sunburns are the result of intense sunrays, welding flash burns are the effect of hot and concentrated welding rays. Both are harmful and can impact different parts of your body if exposed.

Are flash burns the result of Intense UV rays falling on your skin?

The short answer is Yes.

Welding burns that are effected by the intensity of the UV rays during the process are called flash burns.

They are named so because these burns are not caused by welding sparks or any other elements that touch the skin but rather by the sheer intensity of the concentrated welding rays. 

Like sun rays, these emit UV radiations that are harmful and can leave marks on your skin or damage the eyes. Long exposure to the rays can create changes on the skin creating blisters or other similar injuries.

As the rays can penetrate the top layer of the skin, it will burn through it damaging the cells. It is when the effect is so high that the cells fail to be repaired leading to growth that goes beyond a limit which ends up as tumors.

UV radiation can also reflect off the surfaces. And this is equally effective in creating flash burns. It does not reduce the intensity of UV rays in any way. Thus the rays can affect your skin not just directly but also from the environment that you work in.

How long will the flash burns last?

Most of the flash burns will go away on its own given you do not touch them. Two to three days would be enough for the burn to disappear.

Giving it time will do the trick but if the effects are severe you might need to apply some medicines or ointments to get rid of the burn faster. 

In case of an open wound which can happen only in case of a real burn you need to disinfect it and consult a doctor without wasting time.

How does a flash burn from welding affect one’s health?

Flash burns whether first degree or not need to be monitored to see it does not turn into an infection. They might not create serious harm but if irritated or touched they can become worse.

So better to keep them as they are. Applying ice to reduce the intensity of pain will help to an extent in dealing with the initial moments.

Flash burns can affect your health depending upon the depth of the burn. If it is just the top layer it might not linger for long, but if it goes beyond, then you need to be careful. When the injury has depth the tendency for it to get worse is pretty high.

Second-degree flash burn will take at least a week to get better. The gnawing pain will be bothersome for a few days. But with proper care, you will feel at ease within no time.

Is arc eye or welders’ flash a serious threat?

If you talk about flash burn during welding, the most common burn that you are going to find is the damage that happens to your eyes.

Yes, your eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of your face or body when it comes to welding. The rays can easily affect the delicate layers of the eyes.

Is arc eye or welders flash a serious threat

The cornea is the first area that the rays can affect. Corneal flashes are considered to be pretty serious if you are not careful post the injury.

Like the flash burns on your skin, they will go away on their own but if the burn is the result of a long period of welding it can affect your eyesight. 

Various ways in which you can know that your eyes are affected:

      • Reddening of the eyes
      • Tearing of the cornea
      • The feeling of ‘sand in the eye’.
      • Painful irritation
      • Sensitivity to light
      • The inability of look into bright lights

These are the most common symptoms of flash eyes. 

The intensity of the burn depends on:

      • Distance from the arc
      • How long your eyes were exposed
      • The angle of the radiation
      • The protection level of the safety equipment used

How dangerous can welder’s eye get?

Apart from irritation, a welder’s flash can result in cataracts, cause vision problems and in extreme cases that go untreated, diseases that cause tumors can also develop like Ocular Melanoma. To know more about this, click on this link.

Eye corneal flash effects take almost 6 to 12 hours to start showing the effects. Apart from the medical attention that you give, certain cooling activities at home will also help.

What are some home remedies to reduce the pain of my arc eye?

1. Wet towel for the eyes: Dip soft towels in cold water and cover both the eyes with them while lying down. Do this for 10 to 12 minutes and you will instantly feel comfortable.

2. Ice pack for quick relief: Ice packs are also effective and can bring relief faster than other methods. Place ice packs over the eyes for five minutes to see the pain reduce.

3. Teabags are super effective: Tea is source of antioxidants. Take the tea bags that you have used for the morning tea or fresh ones.

Dip them in hot water for a few minutes and cool them in the fridge for 10 minutes. Cover the eyes with these cool bags to see the effect. It is best you go for green tea or chamomile for maximum relief. 

4. Cucumber slices can help too: Placing thick slices of cucumber that were kept in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes is one of the classic methods to relieve the irritation of the eye.

Keeping them over closed eyes for 10 to 15 minutes for two times a day can bring comfort due to the vitamins and cooling properties of the vegetable.

5. Rosewater for a cooling effect: Dip cotton balls in rose water free of additives. Squeeze the balls to prevent dripping and keep them over your eyes for 10 minutes for a soothing effect.

6. Milk acts as a pain reliever: Milk has properties that can provide smoothening effect for the eyes. It is also an excellent lubricator and can relieve pain easily. Drop some inside your eyes and let your eyes take in the goodness.

7. Potato can reduce inflammation: Grate potato and keep it aside. Fill a bowl with water and keep pieces of washcloths in it.

Take the soaked washcloths out and put a lump of grated potato on these clothes. Keep the washcloths with grated potato inside the fridge for a few minutes and use it on the eyes.

What about flash burns on the skin?

For flash burns on the skin you can use the following remedies:

1. Apply ointments or cream: Cream and ointments made for burns are very effective in dealing with flash burns. Do not rub them hard over the affected area for the injured part would be sensitive and soft.

See also: Can Sunscreen be Used to Prevent Burning from Welding?

2. Put ice to stop the pain: Ice can work wonders in reducing inflammation. Although the pain might come back when you take but continue outing ice till you feel the pain subsiding for good.

3. Bandaging the area is ideal: If the burn is manageable, you can bandage it carefully but this should not be done immediately after you get the burn.

Wait for the gnawing pain to subside by applying ointment and then cover the area with a non-stick bandage.

Clean the area with water and pat dry. Do not push your skin hard while you dry. Do it gently. 

Apply cream or ointment on the burned area with a cotton swab.

Place a non-stick bandage over the area. 

Wrap gauze around the bandage. It should not be tight but snug enough to give you comfort. And you are good to go.

Remove the bandage when you feel the need to get it changed. It can vary from three to five days.

Consult a doctor: If the burn is severe, it is best you go for prescribed medicines. They can help in curing the burn faster than home remedies.

How to prevent flash burns during welding?

1. Wear protective goggles: Wear goggles that prevent anything from falling into your eyes. Goggles however are not the apt equipment to prevent flash burns for they are not made of glasses that filter the UV rays but rather are built as a protective layer.

2. Helmets are excellent aids: Wearing helmets that have dark glasses are one of the most effective tools in preventing UV rays from reaching your eyes.

You can find glasses with different degrees of protection. Depending on the type of welding that you are doing, select the type of helmet you need.

3. Jackets to cover your upper body: Welding jackets are excellent for covering your body above the hip. From your neck to the wrist the coverage can provide protection and prevent the rays from touching your skin.

4. Gloves are necessary for welders: Your palms need to be protected as they are often the nearest body part to the welding arc. If not careful burns can easily cause pain to this area. So gloves cannot be avoided if you are going for welding.

5. Pants are essential for protection: When jackets cover the upper half the rest of the body is taken care of by pants. Buy good quality pants that have layers that cannot be penetrated by the strong intense rays.

1. Clean the area with water and pat dry. Do not push your skin hard while you dry. Do it gently. 

2. Apply cream or ointment on the burned area with a cotton swab.

3. Place a non-stick bandage over the area. 

4. Wrap gauze around the bandage. It should not be tight but snug enough to give you comfort.


Just like sunburns take welding flash burns seriously. Take precautionary methods to prevent these, but in any case, you are to endure them, just relax and do the needful.

Do not hesitate to consult a doctor if the injury is deep. Remember, there are medications that can deal with any harm that can happen during welding. 

Check out my other blogs and gain knowledge!

Steve Goodman
Experienced welder with 7+ years of expertise in all the latest welding techniques MIG, flux and stick welding, drill press, crane operation and metal fabrication. Welding certificate course graduate and 2018 Excellence in Welding award winner.

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