An electrical injury occurs if an electrical current flows through the body. This results to a disruption with the function of an internal organ or oftentimes burning of the tissues.
Electrical injury can occur after exposure to defective electrical appliances or machinery as well as unintentional contact with household wires or electrical lines. Being shocked after contact with an electrical outlet or by small appliances is infrequently serious, but unintended exposure to high voltage is responsible for deaths every year. The severity of an electrical injury can range from minor or even deadly and determined by certain factors such as the following:
- Intensity of the current
- Electrical resistance to the current
- Current type
- Length of exposure to the current
- Pathway of the current in the body
What are the indications?
Oftentimes, the main symptom of an electrical injury is a skin burn, although not all cases of injuries result to external damage. As for high-voltage injuries, it might result to significant internal burns. If the muscle damage is extensive, the limb can become swollen significantly that the arteries are compressed, thus cutting off the blood supply to the limb.
If the current flows close to the eyes, it can result to the formation of cataracts. This can develop within days of the injury or years later. In case large amounts of muscle are impaired, a chemical substance specifically myoglobin is released in the blood that can damage the kidneys.
Young children who chew or suck on electrical cords can end up with burned lips or mouth. These burns can result to facial deformities and growth issues of the jaw, teeth and face.
A minor shock can result to muscle pain and can even trigger mild muscle contractions or startle the individual, resulting to a fall. A severe shock can result to abnormal heart rhythms that range from trivial or even deadly. Sustaining a severe shock can also trigger powerful muscular contractions that can throw the individual to the ground or result to bone fractures, joint dislocations or other blunt injuries.
The brain and nerves can also be damaged in various ways, resulting to bleeding in the brain, seizures, personality changes, poor short-term memory, difficulty sleeping or irritability. Damage to the nerves in the body or the spinal cord can cause paralysis, weakness, numbness, tingling, chronic pain and erectile dysfunction.
The first step is to separate the individual from the source of the current. This is safely done by turning off the current such as throwing a circuit breaker or switch or by disconnecting the device from the electrical outlet. Do not touch the individual until the current has been turned off especially if high-voltage lines might be involved.
If the individual can be safely touched, the rescuer should check for breathing and pulse. If not breathing and pulse is absent, CPR must be carried out right away. Call for emergency care for any individual who has more than a minor injury.