What Happens with an Electric Shock?
An electric shock takes place when an electric current, or electricity, passes through a body. A human body can act as a conduit for electricity, as it travels to the ground. A shock can cause severe injury or death. It can cause organ damage and burns internally and externally.
Anything with electric currents, man-made or natural, can cause a shock and electrocution. This includes:
- Power lines
- Electric devices
- Electric weapons
Shocks from some items or devices may be less severe. This typically can be the case for household items or appliances. Any shock can be a serious health and safety problem, though. Any electric device, with a cord or plug, or that connects to a building’s or home’s electric system, can give a severe shock.
The source of the electricity is one factor in the likely severity of a shock is to a person. A person’s health, a person’s age, voltage, the length of time in contact with the electric current, the current’s path through a body to the ground and the type of current are all factors, too. By type of current, an alternating current (AC) is usually more dangerous than a direct current (DC). An alternating current causes muscle spasms and it’s harder for muscles to drop the device, cord or source of the shock.
If you or another person has been electrocuted or shocked, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. The doctor or medical professional will advise you about needing to get more attention or go to an emergency room. You should call 911 in the case of an emergency.
Symptoms from an Electric Shock
Symptoms from suffering an electric shock can vary. It’ll depend on the severity and length of the shock, along with a person’s health. Children, just because of size and weight, can be hurt more from a shock. Some symptoms may not be apparent soon after a shock, which is way medical attention is highly recommended in all cases. A doctor might diagnose a case better and refer a patient to more necessary care or checks later.
Possible symptoms include:
- Breathing problems
- Muscle spasms
- Vision problems
- Deaf or hearing problems
- Burns, internal and/or external
- Irregular heartbeat, pulse
- Swelling, especially in limbs
What to Do Right After a Shock
If You’ve Been Shocked
If you’ve been shocked by electricity, it might be very difficult to function or think clearly. Here’s what you can try to know and do if you’ve been shocked.
First, try to let go of and move away from the source, device or wire which caused the electric shock. Get to a safe distance, and a dry place, away from the electricity.
Next, if possible, call 911. Call for help immediately around you, even for someone who has a phone and can call, if possible.
If the shock feels minor and you do not call 911 or get emergency help, it’s still highly advised to see a doctor or get professional medical care as soon as possible. Some symptoms or internal injuries may take a professional to diagnose, or could become more noticeable later. If you have burn injuries, preferably get medical attention. If you treat it yourself, use sterile gauze which will not stick to the burned area.
If Another Person is Shocked
When someone else near you has been shocked, you need to help the person while keeping yourself safe. There are important steps to doing both, so you can stay safe and aware to continue helping them.
First, call 911 or emergency personnel if the person has been electrocuted by high-voltage electricity, such as a downed power line, or lightning. Call 911 if a person’s been shocked, by any source, and symptoms include trouble breathing, seizures, unconsciousness, muscle pain, chest pain or heart problems.
Critical “do nots” include, do not touch the person or try to move them if the person is still in contact with the electric source or object. Be very aware of water nearby. Do not put yourself or the other person into a wet area close to the electric source or object.
If possible, turn off the source or flow of electricity. If you can’t do this, you can try moving the item, source or object with a non-conductive tool or item. Wood and rubber are non-conductive. Do not use anything metal or wet.
If a person isn’t breathing and has no pulse, and you know CRP, do CPR until emergency personnel get there. If a person is vomiting, faint or pale, you can try to elevate their feet and legs unless this causes a great deal of pain or another injury. If a person has burns, you can cover the burns in sterile gauze. If you can keep a person warm, it’s good to do so.
Treating Electric Shocks
After the initial first aid care, it’s important to see a doctor and any follow-up appointments, even if the injuries from the electric shock seem fine. It’s recommended to check for internal injuries or other issues which might develop later or have not been noticed during the initial accident.
For a severe shock, a doctor may tell a patient to stay in a hospital for 24-72 hours for monitoring and more care.
Even for less severe shocks, some common follow-up medical needs might be burn treatments, IV fluids, a tetanus shot and pain management.
Long-term health issues may be scarring, scabs, vision problems, hearing problems, pain, numbness, tingling, muscle loss and internal injuries.
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