First Aid for Electrical Burns

Topic Overview

The first steps to take when a person is in contact with an electrical source are:

  • Have someone call 911 or other emergency services.
  • Do not touch the "electrified person" with your hands.
  • Unplug the appliance or turn off the main power switch.
  • Try to remove the person from the electrical source, if you cannot turn the power off. Do this only if you can do so safely by:
    • Standing on a dry surface, such as a rubber doormat or a pile of papers or books. Make sure you are not standing in or near water.
    • Using a dry wooden object, such as a broom handle, to push the person away from the electrical source. Do not use anything wet or made of metal.
  • Check for breathing after the person has been separated from the electrical source. If the person is not breathing, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.
  • Check for a heartbeat. Electrical burns can affect the electrical activity of the heart and cause heartbeat changes. If the person has no heartbeat, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.

What should I do about electrical burns that aren't as serious?

  • Rinse the burns with water, and apply a bandage. There may be burns where the electrical current entered the body and where it left the body.
  • Call your health professional to discuss your burn injury. If you have a visible burn to the skin, an evaluation by your health professional is usually needed.

Related Information

Credits

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Updated January 7, 2009

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