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Electrical Injuries: Facts, Causes, Symptoms, First Aid, Treatments, Prevention

Any damage caused to the skin or any of the internal organs of a person when he or she comes in to direct contact with an electrical current, is known to be an electrical injury. Human body conducts electricity pretty well. Thus, electricity passes very easily throughout the body. Direct contact with electric current can really be dangerous at times. Though some of the electrical injuries may be minor injuries causing less damage to the body, there are many electrical injuries that may seriously damage internal organs like heart, muscle and also brain.

Ways Electric Current Can Cause Electrical Injuries to Human Body

  • Cardiac arrest because of the electrical effect on the heart
  • Muscle, nerve as well as tissue destruction from a current passing via the body
  • Thermal burns from contact with the source of electric current.

Some Facts of Electrical Injuries

  • Electrical injury occurs when an electrical current runs via a portion of the human body; usually either from a man-made source or from lightning
  • The outside of the victim’s body may appear to have only minor injuries, however there may be significant internal injuries from the electrical injuries.
  • The electrical current may trigger irregular heartbeat or even stop the heart entirely
  • DC or direct current tends to throw people from the source after one shock
  • AC or alternating current are even more dangerous and causes muscle spasm that often prolong the contact with the electrical source, which in turn increases the extent of injury.

Causes of Electrical Injuries

Causes of Electrical Injuries

Below are some of the causes of electrical injuries:

  • Having an accidental contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances or wiring can cause electrical injury.
  • Electrical injuries may also be caused by the flashing of electric arcs from high-voltage power lines
  • Machinery or occupational-related exposures may also cause electrical injuries
  • Lightning is also known to cause electrical injuries.
  • Young children get electrical injuries when they chew or bite on live electrical cords or when they poke metal objects in to an electrical outlet.

Symptoms of Electrical Injuries:

It must be mentioned that symptoms of the electrical injuries depend on several things such as the type and the strength of voltage, how electricity moved through your body, how long you were in the contact with electricity, your overall health etc. Now let us take a look on some of the symptoms of electrical injuries.

  • Changes in alertness of consciousness
  • Heart attack or chest pain, arm, neck or back pain
  • Headache
  • Broken bones
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle spasm and pain
  • Numbness and tingling sensation
  • Problems while swallowing
  • Problems with vision or hearing
  • Seizures
  • Skin burns
  • Difficulty breathing or lung failure.

First Aid for Electrical Injuries:

  • Do turn off the electrical current immediately if you can do so safely. Unplug the cord, remove the fuse from the fuse box or else turn off the circuit breakers. Make sure you are not trying to rescue a person near active high-voltage lines
  • If the current cannot be turned off, make use of a broom, chair, rubber doormat or any other non-conducting object so as to push the person away from the current source. Keep it noted not to use a wet or a metal object. It is good if you stand on something dry that does not conduct electricity, such as rubber mat.
  • Once the affected person is away from the electricity source, check the person’s airway, his or her breathing and pulse. If either has stopped or seems dangerously slow or shallow.
  • Call your local emergency number like 911
  • If the person has a burn then remove any clothing that comes off easily and rinse the burn area in running water until the pain subsides. Give him or her first aid for burns
  • In case the affected person is pale, faint, or shows any signs of shock then lay him or her down, with his or her head slightly lower than the trunk of the body and the legs elevated and cover him or her with a coat or a warm blanket.
  • Remain with the person until medical help arrives.

Treatments for Electrical Injuries:

Let us now know about some of the treatments for electrical injuries.

  1. Cardiopulmoray Resuscitation:

    Once the person with electrical injury is rescued from the current’s source, they should be checked for their breathing and pulse. In case there is no breathing or pulse, CPR or cardiopulmonary Resuscitation must be started immediately. Emergency medical help should be called for any person who has severe electrical injuries.

    Individuals with Rhabdomyolysis may receive large amounts of fluids given intravenously

    If required, a tetanus shot must be given

    If the electrical injury is painful, the victims are given analgesics.

  2. Treatment for Electrical Injury Causing Skin Burn:

    Skin burns caused due to electrical injury are treated by burn creams like bacitracin, sulfadiazine etc and sterile dressing. Though a person with minor burn in the electrical injury can be treated at home, some may require treatments at hospital. The person is kept in the hospital for 6-12 hours if he or she meets with any of the following:

    • The victim has severe injuries
    • The victim has abnormal heartbeat
    • If there are symptoms of heart problems like chest pain, breathing shortness etc.

Prevention against Electrical Injuries:

  • Avoid electrical hazards at work or at home. Always follow the safety instruction while using electrical appliances
  • Keep children away from electrical devices to prevent electric shock and electrical injuries
  • Avoid using electrical appliances while taking bath or when wet to prevent electrical injuries.
  • Never touch electrical appliances while touching cold water pipes
  • Keep electrical cords out of children’s reach
  • Use child safety plugs in all electrical outlets.
  • Make your children know about the dangers of electricity.


  1. “Electrical Injuries: Pathophysiology, Types, and Treatment” – NCBI Article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4467762/

  2. “Electrical and Lightning Injuries” – MSD Manual Consumer Version Information: https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/injuries-and-poisoning/electrical-and-lightning-injuries/electrical-and-lightning-injuries

  3. “Electrical Injuries: Overview, Emergency Care, Acute Management of Electrical Injuries” – eMedicine Article: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/772053-overview

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 11, 2023

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