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Electrical Burns: First Aid Treatment and Prevention Tips

electrical burns

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August 15, 2022

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Electrical burn injuries can damage the body tissue or internal organs when a person comes into direct contact with an electrical current. It accounts for 1000 deaths yearly in the United States, with a mortality rate of 3-15%. If you are a worker at risk of electrical shock and burns or a parent with a child at home, this article will teach you how to treat and prevent electrical burns

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.

 Read- How to Treat Burn Victims with CPR and First Aid.  
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. 

 Know About The Three Categories of Burn

First Aid for an Electrical Burn:

The first step to take when a person is in contact with an electrical source is to call 911 or other emergency services. For minor or mild burns, follow these first aid steps. If symptoms persist, consult your physician or head to the nearest hospital with an emergency department.

1. Do not touch the electrical burn patient with your hands.

2. Unplug the appliance or turn off the main power source.

3. If you cannot turn the power off, try to remove the person from the source of electricity. Do this safely by standing on a dry surface or using a dry wooden object to push the patient away from the source of electricity. 

4. When it is safe, check if the person is conscious and breathing. Then, gently touch and talk to the person.

5. Check whether the person responds to touch or being talked to after separating them from the electrical source. If the electrified person is not responding, start CPR immediately.

6. If the victim has a burn, remove any clothing that comes off easily and rinse the burn in cool water until the pain reduces. Then, give the first Aid for burns.

7. If the person shows any signs of electrical shock, lay them down, with the head slightly lower than the chest and the legs elevated.

8. Stay with the electric burn victim until medical help arrives and watch for signs of infection.

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electrical burns

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?

To help prevent you or a family member from getting an electrical burn, you can:

  • Wear PPE when you are in working in a high-risk environment.
  • Put child safety covers on all electrical outlets and extension cords and educate them about the dangers of electricity and not to use appliances alone.
  • Keep any kinds of electrical cords out of the reach of children.
  • Follow the directions properly when using electrical appliances.
  • Avoid using electrical appliances in the shower or near the water.
  •  When you are working with electricity, turn off the circuit breaker.

 Take a Free Basic First Aid Practice Test and prepare yourself for the official certification exam.

Key Takeaway:

An electrical injury can be life-threatening. This is because the feeling of electric current passing through the body depends on the strength of the current.

  • An electrical burn is a skin burn that happens when electricity comes in contact with the body.
  • Electrical burns account for 1000 deaths yearly in the United States, with a mortality rate of 3-15%.
  • Turning off an appliance may NOT stop the flow of electricity.
  • Like other burns, electrical burns have three degrees of severity, with tissue damage depending on the duration of exposure to electrical energy.
  • The first step to take when a person is in contact with an electrical source is to call 911.
  • Even for a mild electric shock, you still need advanced medical care to assess whether it’s affected the heart.

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