Electrical Burns and Injuries

Definition

Electrical burns and injuries are the result electrical currents passing through the body. Temporary or permanent damage can occur to the skin, tissues, and major organs. Extent of the damage depends on the strength and duration of the electrical current.

Causes

Electrical burns and injuries result from accidental contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances, wiring, or lightning strikes.Appliance or wiring injuries may occur when:
  • Children bite on electrical cords
  • Utensils or other metal objects are poked into electrical outlets or appliances, such as a plugged-in toaster
  • The power supply is not shut down before making home repairs or installation
  • A plugged-in appliance is dropped into water
Occupational accidents can occur from electric arcs from high-voltage power lines. Electric arcs occur when a burst of electricity jumps from one electrical conductor to another, creating bright flashes.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of an electrical burn or injury include:
  • Occupations with exposure to electric currents, such as a utility worker
  • Occupations involving outdoor work, such as agriculture
  • Being outside during thunderstorms or in areas where thunderstorms are common
  • Working with electrical installations or appliances without proper training

Symptoms

Symptoms will depend on the amount of electricity that passed through the body and length of time the current was in contact with the body.An electrical shock can cause severe muscle contractions. These contractions can causes falls or injuries, including broken bones. Other symptoms include:
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Visible burns on the skin
  • Headache
  • Feeling disoriented
The electrical current can also disrupt certain functions in the body which may cause:
  • Low blood pressure which can lead to lightheadedness and weakness
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias which may be unnoticed or feel like flutters in the chest
Electricity can also cause cardiac arrest , respiratory failure, and/or unconsciousness.

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