Plan for It: Electric Shock First Aid
The amount of damage an electric current can cause is, well, shocking. Electricity running through the body can result in many disastrous injuries, including broken bones and cardiac arrest. Learn what steps you should take to keep everyone as safe as possible in the event of an electric shock.
What Is Electric Shock?
Electric shock occurs when a person comes into contact with an electric current. The current can stop at the skin, or it can enter the body in one place and exit it in another. Shocks can come from electrical cords, appliances, wall sockets, machinery at a job site, and lightning. The extent of injuries the affected person can experience varies greatly.
Possible Electric Shock Injuries
People can walk away from an electric shock with no injuries at all, they can have minor injuries from the incident, or they can suffer severe trauma. Burns are a common affliction for people experiencing an electric shock. There will typically be a more intense burn where the current entered the body and a smaller burn at the exit point. Broken bones can occur due to the muscles contracting from the sudden electric current running through the body. The shock can also cause people to go into cardiac arrest, at which point you should perform CPR (as long as they no longer have an electric current running through their body).
For the most part, any shock coming from a voltage below 500 volts won’t cause much harm, and scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician for treatment will suffice. However, there are still circumstances when immediate medical attention is crucial. If the affected person is more than 20 weeks pregnant, if it’s been over five years since their last tetanus booster, if the person becomes unconscious for any amount of time, or if there is any tingling, paralysis, change in vision, chest pain, hearing or speech problems, or shortness of breath, it’s critical they receive emergency medical care.
How to Perform First Aid for a Major Electric Shock (500 volts or higher)
- Call 911. They will send emergency medical care to the scene.
- Turn off the power immediately, if possible. If the shock comes from something you can’t power off, the 911 operator can contact the electric company to have them shut the power down. As long as electricity is still flowing, stay far away from the electrified area and do not touch the affected person.
- Don’t move the person once the electric current is gone. They could have sustained an injury from the shock and moving them could exacerbate it.
- Check for a pulse and signs of breathing. If they aren’t breathing, begin to perform CPR.
- Cover any visible burns with sterile gauze if you have some nearby.
If you think someone might have sustained injuries from an electric shock, seek immediate medical care. The experienced team at our conveniently located community emergency centers can give you the attention you need in a medical emergency.