What is electrical injury?
An electrical injury is an injury which commonly caused by having contact with any source of electricity at workplaces, household electricity or lightning. The injuries can be classified into three major injuries based on the causes :
This is the most common injury. After having an contact with electrical energy, a person may have more than one burns. Although the burn in the skin surface seems small, in most cases the deeper skin tissues have been severely damaged. These burns also can be divided into some types.
- The first one is flash burn, where the electric current does not flow through the body, but there is an electrical arc formed which pass over the skin. An arc may produce intense heat which cause first degree to third degree burns.
- Arcing burns, this is an injury caused by the electrical current jumps to a person’s body. The heat produced can be as 4,000 degrees celcius, and it also can produce pressure wave which can throw a person and cause severe injury.
- Flame burns, this is an injury caused by the exposure to high voltage of electricity.
- Contact burns, it is an injury caused by touching (consciously or unconsciously) overheated electrical conductors.
- Oral burns, this is a common injury which occurs in children when they bite or suck on electrical cords.
- Low voltage burn, as the name has informed us, this burn is caused by having contact with an electrical source with 500 volts or less. Usually, this is a mild or superficial burn, but the length of contact to the electrical source can make a severe burn.
- High voltage burn, this is the most severe burn caused by high voltage (usually up to 600 or 1,000 volts) electrical current flows throughout the body. The victim gets burn and may be thrown away which cause several traumatic injuries such as fracture or brain hemorrhage.
Injuries caused by electric shock
Electric shock is caused by electric current which flows throughout the body. When an electric shock happens, a person cannot let go the electricity source, which caused by an involuntary muscle contraction.
A person’s eye may be damaged by electric arc. The light from electric arcs may cause a surface burn in the cornea and the fire (if there is a fire) may lead to eyelids burn.
How bad this electrical injury can be?
We have discussed about some electrical injuries which may happen, but you may wonder how severe the electrical injuries can be. Actually, there are some factors involved, such as the rate of current flow, the path where the current flows in the body, the length of time of the current exposure, the health condition of the victim and the type of current (AC or DC).
Here are the symptoms that may occur depends on those factors :
- Bones breaking
- Pain throughout the body
- Vision problem
- Heart attack
- Tingling sensation
- Muscle spasms
- Hearing and breathing difficulty
- Abnormal heartbeat
In other words, it is impossible to know what kind of injury and how severe it is just by considering at one factor. For example, a high voltage may be deadly, but if a person is just having contact for a second and by one or another way he can let go the electric source, it may cause only a minor injury. On the other hand, a low voltage current can be more dangerous. For example, current which runs a 5 or 10 watt light can kill a person if the person cannot let go from the electrical circuit and direct contact is continuing for a little bit longer.
What to do and not to do on an electrical injury?
Electrical injuries such as electric shock or burns can be extremely serious injuries, so the first thing to do is immediately getting a medical care. But while waiting for the medical help, here are some steps to be done just after a person had an electrical injury :
- Make sure to do not endanger yourself and the injured person when you help him to let go from the electrical source (one way is by using and wearing safety equipment for electricity)
- Cooling down. Remove the heat from the injured person by using a wet dressings on the 20% of body, but no icing.
- Then establishing and maintaining an open airway.
- Check the person’s breathing, if he is not breathing you can do assisted ventilation mouth to mouth or using a pocket mask.
- Do the CPR if it is necessary.
- Keep the injured person warm.
- Check the ABC (Airways, Breathing and Circulation) of injured person until he gets the medical help.
First aid for electrical burns
While waiting for the medical help, here are things to do and not to do if an injured person has some burns as the result of the electric current.
- Remove any jewelry, wrist watch and footwear from the injured person.
- If the burned parts are extremities, elevate them.
- Apply wet dressings on 20% or less of the body, since cooling more than 20% may cause hypothermia.
- Do not apply tight dressings.
- Do not try to remove the dead or burned skin.
- Do not break any blister, it will cause any further infection.
- Do not apply ice, creams, or any medications onto the burns.
- If the burned part is a person eyelids, cover it with a clean and steril dressing until he gets the medical help. Do not try to handle it by yourself.
How long to recover from electrical injuries?
There are no certain period of time for electrical injuries to heal. It depends on how severe the injury is and how it affects one’s health. Some injuries can be extremely serious and an medical procedure such as a surgery may be required.