Electrical burns

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First aid: Electrical burns

An electrical burn may appear minor or not show on the skin at all, but the damage can extend deep into the tissues beneath your skin. If a strong electrical current passes through your body, internal damage, such as a heart rhythm disturbance or cardiac arrest, can occur. Sometimes the jolt associated with the electrical burn can cause you to be thrown or to fall, resulting in fractures or other associated injuries.

Call 911 or your local emergency number for assistance if the person who has been burned is in pain, is confused, or is experiencing changes in his or her breathing, heartbeat or consciousness.

While helping someone with an electrical burn and waiting for medical help, follow these steps:

  1. Look first. Don't touch. The person may still be in contact with the electrical source. Touching the person may pass the current through you.
  2. Turn off the source of electricity if possible. If not, move the source away from both you and the injured person using a dry, nonconducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood.
  3. Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement). If absent, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
  4. Prevent shock. Lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk, if possible, and the legs elevated.
  5. Cover the affected areas. If the person is breathing, cover any burned areas with a sterile gauze bandage, if available, or a clean cloth. Don't use a blanket or towel, because loose fibers can stick to the burns.
Last Updated: 2010-01-08
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