Electrical Burn First Aid Treatment: A Useful Guide To Help You During A Medical Emergency

Electrical Burn First Aid Treatment

In today’s world, electricity is an invisible force that powers our lives. But while it provides us with light, heat, and countless conveniences, it can also be a hidden danger. Electrical burns, caused when electricity passes through the body, can be serious and unpredictable injuries. These burns can range from minor to life-threatening, and even seemingly minor injuries can mask significant internal damage.

This blog post is your comprehensive guide to electrical burn first aid. We’ll delve into the causes and symptoms of electrical burns, equip you with essential first aid steps, and explore effective prevention strategies. By understanding the risks and taking necessary precautions, you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones from electrical hazards.

What Exactly Are Electric Burns And How Do They Happen?

Electrical burns occur when electricity passes through the body, causing damage to skin, muscles, and even internal organs. This current can travel through direct contact with a live wire, faulty electrical equipment, or even a lightning strike. The severity of the burn depends on several factors, creating a spectrum of injuries that can range from minor to life-threatening.

Understanding how these burns happen requires considering the role of electrical current. When electricity flows through a conductor, like a wire, it encounters resistance. This resistance creates heat. In an electrical burn, the body acts as an unintended conductor. The amount of current, the duration of contact, and the path the current takes through the body all influence the degree of heat generated and the subsequent tissue damage.

Here’s a closer look at the key factors that determine the severity of electrical burns:

  • Current Strength: Higher currents cause more severe burns. Imagine a wider river carrying more water – it will have a greater impact than a narrow stream. Similarly, a stronger electrical current will cause more extensive tissue damage.
  • Duration of Contact: The longer the body is in contact with the electrical source, the more serious the burn. The longer the current flows, the more heat is generated, leading to deeper and more severe burns.
  • Path of the Current: Electricity travels through the body following the path of least resistance. This means the entry and exit points of the current will often be the most severely burned areas. Think of electricity like water flowing downhill – it will take the easiest route available. Thicker tissues like muscle offer more resistance than skin, so the entry and exit points often experience the brunt of the damage.

What Are The Major Reasons And Symptoms Of Electrical Burns?

Electrical burns are caused when electricity passes through the body. This can happen through direct contact with a live wire, faulty electrical equipment, or even a lightning strike. The severity of the burn depends on several factors, including:

  • The amount of current: Higher currents cause more severe burns.
  • The duration of contact: The longer the contact, the more serious the burn.
  • The path of the current: Electricity follows the path of least resistance through the body. This means that the entry and exit points of the current will often be the most severely burned areas.
  • Skin type and thickness: Thicker skin offers more resistance to electrical current, so areas like the palms of your hands or soles of your feet may be less affected than thinner skin on the arms or face.

Symptoms of Electrical Burns:

Electrical burns can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which may not be immediately apparent. Here are some of the most common:

  • Entry and exit wounds: These are the points where the current entered and exited the body. They may appear as small puncture wounds or areas of charring.
  • Skin charring or burning: This is the most obvious sign of an electrical burn. The skin may be red, blackened, or even white.
  • Muscle spasms or contractions: Electricity can disrupt the normal function of muscles, causing them to spasm or contract involuntarily.
  • Numbness or tingling around the burn area: This is caused by damage to nerves in the area.
  • Seizures: In severe cases, electrical shock can cause seizures.
  • Cardiac arrest: Electrical current can disrupt the heart’s rhythm, leading to cardiac arrest. This is a life-threatening complication that requires immediate medical attention.

Internal injuries: One of the dangers of electrical burns is that they can cause damage to internal organs, even if the skin appears relatively unscathed. This is because electricity can travel through the body, damaging muscles, blood vessels, and even the heart. For this reason, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for any electrical burn, regardless of how minor it may seem.

How To Treat Electric Burns

Electrical burns are a medical emergency. While waiting for help to arrive, there are some initial steps you can take to minimize harm:

Ensure Your Safety First! Electricity can travel through water and metal. Before attempting to help someone with an electrical burn, make sure you are not at risk of being shocked yourself. Here’s what to do:

  1. Turn off the electrical source if possible. If you can’t safely turn off the power at the source, use a non-conductive object (like a dry wooden broom handle) to move the victim away from the electricity. Do not touch the victim with your bare hands.
  2. Call emergency services immediately. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen – electrical injuries can have delayed effects.

Once the victim is safe, you can begin basic first aid:

  1. Check the victim’s breathing and pulse. If they are not breathing, begin CPR. It’s crucial to act quickly in this situation. Place the heel of your hand on the center of the victim’s chest and push down hard and fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. If you are trained in CPR, continue cycles of chest compressions and breaths until help arrives.

  2. Cool the burn with cool (not cold) running water for at least 20 minutes. This will help reduce pain and swelling. Hold the burned area under running water for at least 20 minutes, or until emergency medical help arrives. Do not use ice, as this can further damage the tissue and slow down the healing process. Lukewarm water is ideal, but cool tap water is sufficient if that’s all that’s available.

  3. Cover the burn loosely with a sterile gauze pad or clean cloth. Once the burned area has been cooled, cover it loosely with a sterile gauze pad or, if unavailable, a clean cloth. This will help protect the burn from further contamination and irritation. Do not apply ointments, creams, butter, or petroleum jelly to the burn, as these substances can trap heat and worsen the injury.

  4. Elevate the burned area if possible to reduce swelling. If the burn is on an extremity, such as an arm or leg, elevate it above the level of the heart. This will help reduce swelling and pain. If the burn is on the face or chest, simply elevate the head and shoulders slightly with pillows or blankets.

Remember: These are just general guidelines. Always follow the specific instructions provided by emergency medical personnel. Once help arrives, medical professionals can assess the full extent of the injury and provide appropriate treatment. This may include medication for pain, antibiotics to prevent infection, debridement (removal of dead tissue), or even surgery in severe cases.


Electrical burns can be serious and unpredictable injuries. By following the steps outlined above, you can take initial action to minimize harm while waiting for emergency medical assistance. Remember, electrical safety is paramount. Only help a victim if it can be done safely without putting yourself at risk. Early intervention and proper medical treatment are crucial for optimal healing and to prevent complications.

Taking a first aid and CPR course can equip you with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively in an emergency. Furthermore, incorporating electrical safety practices into your daily routine can significantly reduce the risk of electrical burns. By being prepared and aware of the dangers, you can help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.