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First aid : Electric burns

Electric burns differ slightly from those you would get from fire, steam, hot oil, and other things that cause burns. In this case, along with the burn, the person may also experience an electric shock. There can also be severe internal burns that may damage vital organs and be fatal for the person. A doctor can assess the degree of burns and suggest a line of treatment. It has been observed that burns happen to be severe at the points of contact, which usually are

  • Hands
  • Heels
  • head

An electric burn can cause temporary or permanent damage to

  1. The skin
  2. Tissues
  3. Major organs

The time the body was in contact with the electricity and the intensity with which the electric burn occurred can determine the kind of burn. Health conditions and age are factors that may affect injury healing. A person with a heart ailment or a small child cannot withstand electric burns, which may prove fatal. Children can experience an electric mouthburn because they happen to bite into the chords or wires. There could also be a burn on the lip, which can appear as a red or black burnt mark to indicate an electric burn.

Persons at risk

  • Exposure to current as part of their occupation
  • While working in agriculture (outdoors)
  • When out in thunderstorms
  • Having old or damaged electrical wiring or appliances and using them

Types of Electric Burns

Major electric burns

  • can stop the heart from beating.
  • Cause irregular heartbeats.
  • The kidney may stop normal functioning.
  • Muscle cells will leak into the blood (rhabdomyolysis)
  • A build-up of pressure in individual sections of muscles (acute compartment syndrome)
  • Become unconscious
  • Muscle weakness
  • Eye/ear damage

Severe burn injuries can leave behind scars, depending on the extent of burns that determine whether the skin will grow back normally. It may involve a lot of grafting and plastic surgeries, perhaps to normalize the skin caused by burning. The doctor may have to remove damaged tissues or muscles and sometimes amputate the limb.

Minor electric burns

They can be treated with first Aid, just like other minor burns. A mild burn needs a medical check-up, though, because from outside, it may seem like mild skin damage, but internal organs have been affected by the impact. The minor burns will heal and, in time, will fade away.

Causes for electric burns

  • Electricity
  • Lightning
  • Stun guns
  • Household current appliances or faulty wiring

The person in contact with live electricity may have damaged internal tissues, which may not be visible outside. But electricity has impacted the major organs in the body that need immediate doctor’s attention, which can be far worse than burns.

First aid

  • If the person is in contact with the electricity, do not touch the person directly.
  • Switch off the power. If the overhead powerlines are in contact, try to be 20 feet away from the person, as the lines may still be active.
  • Call emergency services.
  • Avoid moving the person away unless there is danger still lurking.
  • Soak the burnt area in cold water to cool it. Avoid putting ice on the burnt skin, as it can cause a burning sensation.
  • Prevent the injured person from getting cold and cover the person with a light blanket.
  • A sterile gauze bandage must cover the burnt area, ensuring no loose fibers stick to the wound.
  • To prevent infection, the burnt area can be treated with a topical antibiotic ointment that is prescribed.
  • Propping the burnt part of the body above the level of your heart will reduce pain. An over-the-counter painkiller can help cope with the pain.
  • Better get a tetanus shot to the electric burn victim (if the person hasn’t taken one recently)
  • Begin CPR until the emergency service arrives. If the person isn’t
    1. Moving
    2. Having circulation
    3. Breathing
    4. Coughing
    5. Responding

Need for medical assistance.

  • If the person has suffered severe burns
  • The affected person is pregnant or has a child
  • The person appears to be in a confused state of mind
  • Has difficulty in breathing
  • Suffering irregular heartbeats
  • The person has had a cardiac arrest
  • There are chances of contractions and muscle pain as well
  • The affected person may have lost consciousness as well
  • If the burn wounds aren’t healing and there is an increase in the redness, discharge, and soreness as well

The doctor assesses the degrees of the burns by categorizing them as

  • Superficial burns: that affected the topmost layer of the skin and made it red, dry, and painful. The burn turns white when pressed.
  • Partial thickness burns indicate that at least two layers of the skin happen to have borne the brunt of the burns. The skin is also red in this case, but there is a discharge of fluid forming blisters.
  • Full-thickness is when several layers of the skin have been affected, sometimes all of them. There isn’t pain, but the skin color would have turned either white, gray, or black.


Electric burns are mostly associated with electric shocks. Take preventive measures and ensure that all wiring and appliances are well insulated. Also, handle electric equipment with care at all times to avoid mishaps.

  1. Healthdirect  Australia

Electric Shocks and Burns

  1. HealthLinkBC Files

First Aid for Electrical Burns


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