Adult electrical injuries usually occur in an occupational setting, whereas children are primarily injured in the household setting.
The spectrum of electrical injury is very broad, from minimal injury to severe multiorgan involvement.
Types of electrical injuries:
- Direct contact: Current passing directly through the body will heat the tissue causing electrothermal burns. It will typically cause an entrance and exit wound.
- Electrical arcs: Current sparks are formed between objects of different electric potential that are not in direct contact with each other, most often a highly charged source and a ground. The temperature of an electrical arc can reach 2500-5000 C, resulting in deep thermal burns where it contacts the skin. These are high-voltage injuries.
- Flame: Ignition of clothing causes direct burns from flames. Both electrothermal and arcing currents can ignite clothing.
Lightning – may set clothing on fire, knock a casualty down, or even cause instant death.
High voltage current – found in power lines and overhead high-tension (HT) cables. Contact with same is usually immediately fatal.Anyone who survives will have severe burns. High voltage electricity may jump (“arc”) up to 18. Materials such as dry wood or clothing will not protect you. The power must be cut off and isolated before you approach the casualty.
Low voltage current – as used in homes and workplaces, can cause serious injury or even death. Most electrical injuries that occur indoors are caused by faulty electrical equipment or careless use of electrical appliances. Handling an otherwise safe electrical appliance with wet hands, or when standing on a wet floor, greatly increases the risk of an electric shock.
First Aid Tips:
Casualty still in contact with electricity
- DO NOT TOUCH THE CASUALTY IF STILL IN CONTACT WITH CURRENT!
- Turn off electricity at fuse box or unplug the appliance.
- Do not use anything metallic to break the circuit. Stand on something dry insulating material (i.e. phone book, wooden box, plastic mat.
- Using something made of wood (i.e. broom) push the victims limbs away from the electrical source or push the source away from the casualty.
Casualty not in contact with electricity
- If casualty is motionless, open the airway, check breathing and treat accordingly
- Care for shock
- care for electrical burns as you would a full-thickness burn
- Call 999 or 112
If you have any questions or if you are interested in booking a place on one of our First Aid classes please contact us. Watch out for our next topic in April – Meningitis.