Electrical Injury

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

An electrical injury occurs when the skin or internal organs are exposed toelectric current.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

The human body conducts electricity very well. Direct contact with an electrical current canbe fatal. Although the cause of an electrical injury is often obvious, theseinjuries can be overlooked at the time they occur. Sometimes very severeelectrical shocks look minor. Outwardly, the shock may only cause small burns.However, internal damage can be very serious.

The most easily damaged organs are the heart and the brain. Cardiac arrest,which occurs when the heart stops beating, can occur if the beating mechanismof the heart is affected. There can also be significant muscle destruction fromthe current passing through the body.

Electrical injuries commonly occur when:

  • young children bite or chew on electrical appliances or cords
  • young children poke an object, a finger, or other part of the body into anelectrical outlet
  • Anyone may be injured by:

  • accidental contact with exposed parts of electric appliances or wiring
  • electrical flashes from high-voltage power lines
  • electric machines
  • lightning
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

    The signs and symptoms of an electrical injury can vary depending on the typeand amount of current but may include:

  • fatigue
  • bone fractures
  • burns on the skin
  • hearing impairment
  • arrhythmia, or irregularheartbeat
  • heart attack
  • lack of breathing, or sometimes very fast breathing
  • loss of reflex control
  • muscle cramps
  • muscle pain
  • confusion
  • amnesia, or memory loss
  • loss of consciousness
  • visual impairment
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the injury recognized?

    An electrical injury is diagnosed if a person reports being shocked or is seengetting shocked.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the injury?

    Some electrical injuries in children can be avoided by:

  • using safety plugs in all outlets
  • keeping electric cords out of the reach of children
  • teaching children about the dangers of electricity
  • Everyone should avoid electrical hazards at home and work by:

  • making sure there are no electric lines in the way when working withladders, poles, or other tall objects
  • not using electric appliances while showering or wet
  • never touching electric appliances while touching faucets or cold waterpipes in the kitchen
  • not working on electric appliances in the house without knowing how to dothe wiring and remembering to turn off all of the electricity first
  • using common sense and looking around carefully when working withelectricity
  • Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the injury?

    First aid treatment for electrical injury includes the following:

  • If possible, shut off the electric current by unplugging the cord, removingthe appropriate fuse from the fuse box, or turning off the circuitbreakers.
  • Do not touch the person with bare hands while he or she is still in contactwith the electrical source. If the current cannot be turned off, an object thatdoes not conduct electricity can be used to push the source of the current away from the person orto push the person away from the source. A broom, chair, rug, or something rubberis a good choice. A wet object or a metal object would probably conduct electricity,causing the helper to get shocked.
  • Try to move the person while standing on something dry that does notconduct electricity. Failing to follow these measures can injure thehelper.
  • Check for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, ormovement in response to stimulation.
  • Contact the emergency medicalsystem immediately.
  • Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if the person stops breathing.Use 15 chest compressions for every 2 mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
  • Avoid moving the victim’s head or neck after laying him or her down. Theneck and back should not be bent unless the rescuer is certain that there are no othermajor injuries.
  • What are the side effects of the treatments?

    The chest compressions of CPR can cause vomiting, injuries to internal organs,or broken ribs. Vomiting can be a problem if the vomit is caught in the airwayand inhaled into the lungs.

    Moving a person to treat him or her can cause further damage if there is aninternal injury, such as a fractured vertebrae, which is a break in the bonethat surrounds the spinal cord.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    A person who receives an electrical injury should be seen by a healthcareprofessional. It is important to check for injury to body organs such as thebrain and heart.

    Article type: xmedgeneral