Electrical burns occur when a person is directly exposed to an electrical current. Although some electrical burns look minor on the skin, they can cause extensive internal damage, especially to the heart, muscles, or brain. This is a potentially serious condition that requires care from a doctor.
Classification of Skin Burns
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Symptoms may include:
- Visible burns on the skin
- Muscle contraction or pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Bone fractures
- Feeling disoriented
- Low blood pressure
If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to an electrical burn. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, consult a doctor.
Electricity can also cause cause cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and/or unconsciousness.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and do a physical exam.
Like other burns, electrical burns have three degrees of severity, each with distinctive symptoms:
—Injury is only to the outer layer of skin. They are red and painful, and may cause some swelling. The skin turns white when touched.
—These burns are deeper and more severe. They cause blisters and the skin is very red or splotchy. There may be more significant swelling.
—These cause damage to all layers of the skin down to the tissue underneath. The burned skin looks white or charred. These burns may cause little or no pain because the nerves in the skin are destroyed.
It may be more difficult to diagnosis damage under the skin cuased by electricity. Test may include:
—to detect rhythm disturbances of the heart
- Urine or blood tests—to check for severe damage to muscles
Electrical burns require an immediate call to paramedics. If possible, shut off the electrical current from its source (such as unplugging a cord or turning off the circuit breaker). Often, simply turning off the appliance itself will not stop the flow of electricity.
If the current can't be turned off, use a non-conducting object, like a wooden broom, chair, rug, or rubber doormat to push the victim away from the source of the current. Don't use a wet or metal object. If possible, stand on something dry and non-conducting, such as a mat or folded newspapers.
Do not attempt to rescue a victim near active high-voltage lines.
Once the victim is free from the source of electricity, his airway, breathing, and pulse are checked and, if needed, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) efforts are started. The victim is covered with a blanket to maintain body heat and feet are raised above the head.
Ice, butter, or ointments, should not be applied.
Anyone with an electrical burn should be taken to the hospital for further evaluation. Treatment will depend on the severity of the burn and any other associated complications.
If you are diagnosed with an electrical burn, follow your doctor's