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What are Electrical Burns?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 17, 2024

Electrical burns are burns that are due to direct contact with electricity. Burns of this type may be sustained as a result of being struck by lightning or coming into contact with live wiring that is left exposed. An electric burn has the potential to damage the skin in the same manner as any other type of burn. In addition, the flow of current that caused the electrical burn may also lead to other health issues like cardiac arrest or the development of an erratic heartbeat.

Dealing with electrical burns involves taking safety precautions before touching the burn victim in any way. One of the first steps in the process is to make sure that the individual is no longer in active contact with source of the electricity. This will eliminate the chance of the surge of current traveling to a second party and causing more external and possibly internal damage.

If the individual is still in contact with live wiring, try to turn off the flow of current at a nearby junction box. Should it prove impossible to shut off the power, move the burn victim away from the source. Use material that will not conduct electricity, such as wood or cardboard, to nudge the victim away from the electrical current.

Once it is determined that the individual is free of contact with any electrical source, begin to examine the victim. Make sure the victim is lying flat on a flat surface, with the legs elevated. Ideally, the head should be slightly lower than the torso. This will help minimize the incidence of shock or trauma that often accompanies any electrical burns.

People who have suffered electrical burns may need immediate assistance with breathing. Look for any small signs of movement, including an up and down movement of the chest indicating that breathing is taking place. If the victim is completely non-responsive, begin CPR at once.

Look for evidence of any electric shock burns. Depending on the severity of the burns, they may already be oozing liquid. If at all possible, use sterile gauze to cover the open wounds. An alternative is to use clean fabric that is tightly woven. Avoid using any material where fibers may adhere to the burn site.

Call for emergency medical assistance immediately after doing all you can to stabilize the burn victim. Electricity burns can cause internal damage that is not readily apparent to the untrained eye. Rapid transport to a medical facility will make it possible to treat the burn victim more effectively and also run the tests necessary to make sure no internal organs have sustained permanent damage.

As with all types of burns, electrical burns may be relatively minor or extremely severe. Even with the best of immediate first aid, it is still important to obtain professional medical care as soon as possible. Taking action immediately can often make a huge difference in how long it will take for a complete recovery without any lingering side effects.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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