Electrical Burns: Overview, Treatment, and Management

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The overall impact of electrical current on a living organism depends on different factors such as voltage, amperage, the specific type of current, path of the current, resistance at the point of contact, and the susceptibility of the organism. According to experts, nearly all forms of current below 1,000 volts are considered low-voltage currents. Those above 1,000 volts are believed to be high-voltage currents. However, any current beyond 65 volts can be dangerous to people, especially when well-grounded.


Electrical injuries are relatively common. Typically, adult electrical burns often occur as an occupational hazard while kids suffer such burns accidently. The spectrum of health problems caused by electrical currents is wide, ranging from minor discomfort to severe electrical burns that result in damage of different internal organs.

Treatment and management of electrical burns

If someone has come into contact with an electric current, medical experts recommend the following;

  • Don’t touch the person if they’re still in contact with the current.
  • If the source of the electrical current is high voltage, call 911. Don’t touch any wire unless you’re absolutely sure that the source of the power has been turned off. Actually, it is recommended to stay about 20 feet away.

After calling 911 and you’re sure medical help is on the way;

  • Turn off the source of the electric current if you can do so safely. If you can’t use a dry, non-conductive item such as dry wood, pieces of cardboard, or plastic to push the source of current away.
  • If the victim is unresponsive, start performing CPR.
  • You shouldn’t let the victim get chilled.
  • Use a clean piece of cloth or sterile bandage to cover the burns. Don’t apply a blanket or towel because the loose fibers can easily get stuck to the burns.

Minor low-voltage shocks that don’t result in burns of the skin or symptoms many not require medical attention. However, all high-voltage shocks and burns must be examined by a medical expert. The treatment approach used will depend on the severity of the burns and nature of any other injuries that the victim suffered.

Minor burns can be treated using topical antibiotic ointment and the right burn dressing. On the other hand, severe injuries may necessitate surgery to clean the wounds or perform skin grafting. Note that severe burns on the legs, arms, and hands may need surgery to eliminate the damaged muscle.

If you have suffered eye injuries due to exposure to an electric current, an ophthalmologist will perform an examination and administer the necessary eye treatment. If the victim suffered broken bones, the overall treatment might involve casting, splinting, or even surgery to help stabilize the affected bones. Lastly, internal injuries will require keen observation and surgery (when necessary).

Recovery

Recovery from different types of electric burns primarily depends on the nature and severity of the burns. The percentage of your body surface that got burned is a significant factor that affects prognosis. If you or your loved one suffered severe electrical burns, it is recommended to seek medical attention to avoid instances of infection and eventual death.

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