Electrical Burns: First Aid Treatment and Prevention Tips

Electrical burns occur when an electric current passes through the body, causing damage to the skin and underlying tissues. These burns can range from mild to severe and require immediate first aid to minimize damage and prevent complications. This comprehensive guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to administer first aid for electrical burns.

  1. Assess the Situation: Evaluate the severity of the burn. Electrical burns can range from minor to severe, and the treatment approach may vary accordingly.
  2. Remove the Source: Use non-conductive materials such as a dry wooden stick or a non-metallic object to gently separate the person from the electrical source.
  3. Check for Breathing and Circulation: Assess the person's airway, breathing, and circulation. Perform CPR if necessary.
  4. Remove Jewelry and Tight Clothing: If an electrical burn occurs on or near jewelry or tight clothing, carefully remove them to prevent constriction if swelling occurs.
  5. Cool the Burn: For minor electrical burns, you can rinse the affected area with cool, not cold, running water for about 10-20 minutes.
  6. Cover the Burn: After cooling, cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing or a clean, dry cloth to protect it from infection. Do not use adhesive bandages directly on the burn.
  7. Monitor for Shock: If you suspect shock, keep the person lying down with their legs elevated slightly and cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.

Assess the Situation

When confronted with an electrical burn, it's imperative to assess the situation to gauge the extent of injury. Electrical burns can encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from relatively minor to life-threatening in severity. This assessment is important as the subsequent treatment plan will depend upon the severity of the burn. Be attuned to signs such as the size and depth of the burn, the presence of charred or blackened skin, and the affected area's location on the body.


Remove the Source Using Non-Conductive Materials

Swiftly removing the individual from the electrical source is paramount to ensure their safety and prevent further harm. Usenon-conductive materials like a dry wooden stick or a non-metallic object to gently and carefully separate the person from the source of electricity. This step is crucial in halting the flow of electrical current through the body.


Check for Breathing and Circulation

After removing the person from the electrical source, their immediate well-being should be assessed. Check for the presence of breathing and circulation. If the person is not breathing or does not have a detectable pulse, initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) promptly. CPR can be a lifesaving measure in such critical situations and should be administered until professional medical help arrives.


Remove Jewelry and Tight Clothing

Examine the affected area for any constricting factors such as jewelry or tight clothing. Safely and meticulously remove these items if they are on or near the electrical burn site. This precaution is taken to prevent constriction-induced complications, especially if swelling occurs in the affected region.


Cool the Burn with Running Water

For minor electrical burns, initiate the cooling process by rinsing the affected area with cool, not cold, running water. This should be done for a duration of approximately 10 to 20 minutes. Cooling serves to alleviate pain, minimize tissue damage, and prevent the burn from progressing further. Ensure the water is not excessively cold, which may exacerbate the injury.


Cover the Burn to Prevent Infection

Following the cooling procedure, it's essential to shield the burn from potential contamination and infection. Cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing or a clean, dry cloth. Avoid using adhesive bandages directly on the burn, as they can adhere to the injured skin and cause further discomfort and damage.


Monitor for Shock

In situations where shock is a concern, maintain a vigilant watch over the person's condition. Keep them lying down with their legs elevated slightly to optimize blood flow back to the heart. Cover the individual with a blanket or additional clothing to keep them warm, as shock can lead to a drop in body temperature. Continuously monitor their vital signs and be prepared to provide additional care as needed. Seek professional medical attention promptly to address shock or any other complications that may arise from the electrical burn.

What is an Electrical Burn?

An electrical burn is a skin burn that happens when the electricity comes in contact with the body surface. It may be caused by several sources of electric sources such as lightning strikes, stun guns, and contact with electrical appliances and household currents.

When electricity comes in contact with your skin, it can travel through your body. When this happens, the electricity can damage tissues and organs. This damage can be mild or severe and can even cause death. Organs that are commonly damaged include the following:

  • Heart: People can get abnormal heart rhythms. Their heart can also suddenly stop beating, called “cardiac arrest.”
  • Kidneys: – The kidneys can stop working normally.
  • Bones and muscles: If the muscles are severely injured, substances from inside damaged muscle cells can leak into the blood.
  • Nervous system: People can pass out, have muscle weakness, or have eye or ear damage.

electrical burns

What Are the 3 Types of Electrical Burns?

There are three types of electrical injuries. These are:

1. Electrical burns – This can result when someone touches electrical wiring or equipment used or maintained improperly. It often occurs on the hands. Electrical burns are one of the most severe injuries you can receive. Therefore, they need to be given immediate attention.

2. Arc-blasts – This electric burn occurs when powerful, high-amperage currents arc through the air. This is often caused by equipment failure due to fatigue.

3. Thermal burns – This type of burn (thermal injuries) may result if an explosion occurs or when electricity ignites an explosive material in the air. The ignition can result from the buildup of combustible vapors, gasses, or dust.

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electrical burns

What is the most important principle to remember with electrical burns?

The most important principle to remember with electrical burns is to prioritize safety above all else. Ensure the immediate area is safe from electrical hazards before providing assistance. If possible, disconnect the power source to prevent further injury. Use non-conductive materials to separate the person from the electrical source if turning off the power is not feasible. This principle safeguards both the injured person and those offering aid, preventing additional harm from electrical current and ensuring a safer environment for treatment.


What Should I Do About Burns That Aren’t as Serious?

For minor burns, rinse the burns with water for at least 20 minutes, and apply a sterile gauze bandage. There may be burns where the electrical current entered the human body and where it left the human body. Then call your doctor to discuss your injury. An evaluation is usually needed if you have a visible burn to the skin.

When to Contact Your Doctor?

Even though electrical burns look minor, there are still cases of severe burns that cause internal damage, especially to the heart, muscles, or brain. So if you have been injured by contact with an electric current, you should be seen by a healthcare professional. The damage may be worse than you would expect from the burn on the skin. Even for a mild electric shock, you still need advanced medical care to assess whether it’s affected the heart.

electrical burns

How to Prevent Electrical Burns?

Preventing electrical burns is crucial for personal safety and well-being. Here are some guidelines and practices to help you avoid electrical burns:

  1. Electrical Safety Education: Educate yourself and others about the risks associated with electricity. Understand how electrical systems work and the potential hazards they pose.
  2. Qualified Electricians: For any electrical work at home or in the workplace, always hire qualified electricians. They have the expertise to install and maintain electrical systems safely.
  3. Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs): Install GFCIs in areas where water and electricity can come into contact, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor outlets. These devices can quickly interrupt electrical circuits if they detect a fault, preventing electric shock.
  4. Outlet Safety: Ensure all outlets and switches are properly covered and in good condition. Replace damaged or exposed outlets promptly.
  5. Appliance Safety: Regularly inspect electrical appliances and cords for damage. Replace frayed cords and malfunctioning appliances. Never overload outlets or power strips.
  6. Extension Cords: Use extension cords only when necessary and avoid overloading them. Don't use damaged or frayed extension cords.
  7. Water and Electricity Don't Mix: Keep electrical appliances and cords away from water sources. Use outlets with GFCIs near water sources, and always dry your hands before touching electrical devices.
  8. Outdoor Electrical Safety: When using electrical equipment outdoors, make sure it's rated for outdoor use and properly grounded. Keep cords and tools away from water and wet areas.
  9. Stay Clear of Power Lines: Maintain a safe distance from overhead power lines. Never touch them or attempt to retrieve objects stuck in them. Contact your utility company to address any issues with power lines.
  10. Childproofing: Childproof your home to prevent children from inserting objects into electrical outlets. Consider using outlet covers or tamper-resistant outlets.
  11. Proper Electrical Tools: When working with electricity, use appropriate tools designed for electrical work. Ensure they are insulated and in good condition.
  12. Safety Gear: If you work with electricity regularly, wear appropriate safety gear, including insulated gloves and safety glasses.
  13. Follow Electrical Codes: Adhere to electrical codes and regulations in your region when installing or modifying electrical systems. These codes exist to ensure safety standards are met.
  14. Emergency Response Training: Learn basic first aid and emergency response techniques, including CPR. Knowing how to respond in case of an electrical injury can be life-saving.
  15. Report Hazards: If you notice electrical hazards in public places, report them to the relevant authorities or property owners promptly.
  16. Proper Storage: Store flammable materials and liquids away from electrical outlets and devices to prevent electrical fires.

By following these safety practices and being vigilant around electricity, you can significantly reduce the risk of electrical burns and other electrical-related accidents. Remember that electrical safety is a shared responsibility, and it's essential to educate family members, coworkers, and others about the importance of electrical safety measures.