First Aid for Electric Shock
Electricity, a major form of energy and one that we would have a hard time living without, is one of great danger if not handled carefully. The people most at risk are electricians that don’t follow proper safety procedures. However, many lay persons also get electrocuted, usually because they try to do repairs without having the proper qualifications or the proper tools.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington, in the U.S. there are about 350 electrical related deaths per year, and another 2,500 non-fatal electrically related accidents. About 7 children per day seek medical help because of electrocution each year. In addition to personal injury, electrical accidents also cause many fires, usually in the home, because electricity is a source of heat which can cause objects to catch fire.
Electric shock results when an electric current passes through the body, either from an artificially generated source or from lightning. The impact ranges from a slight tingling to major electrocution which can cause death. Between these extremes, electricity may cause minor to major burns and temporary to irreversible tissue damage. A strong electric jolt may also produce traumatic shock, where the body’s vital processes are significantly disrupted. The heart is usually the organ most affected because it works on electrical impulses which can be severely interrupted when an external charge passes through it.
Internal injuries are directly related to the intensity and the length of exposure time. For example, when lightning strikes, the voltage is high, but the duration of current flow is extremely brief. A lightning strike may not cause burns, but it may disrupt the body’s internal electrical impulses that control the brain and the heart. Whereas if you touch an electrical wire the voltage might not be as high as a lightning strike, but you may not be able to let go because electricity causes muscles to contract, therefore the duration of the exposure will be much longer.
Safety and First Aid Tips
The first, and most important consideration, is your, and others’ safety. If it’s not safe do not approach the person.
If the shock occurred indoors turn off the main electrical switch that provides power to the house. If you don’t know where the power source is, and you haven’t done so already, call 9-1-1 and tell them what is going on so they can make arrangements with the energy company to turn off the power. It might be tempting to approach and touch the casualty, but the only thing this will achieve is you also getting electrocuted. Once the power has been turned off begin regular first aid procedures; check for unconsciousness, check for breathing, give them breaths, start CPR.
With low voltage, and if you decide to take the risk, you can try moving the electrical wire by using a non-conductive pole or stick. But make sure it is made of wood, plastic, or thick rubber and totally dry. But be aware that whatever you use doesn’t have a steel core with only a plastic covering. Your safety will be increased if you are standing on a non-conductive surface such as a large and thick rubber mat.
If electrocution has occurred in water make sure the source is turned off. Do NOT enter the water until you are sure of this. If it is a lightning strike the energy will not stay in the water for very long, it spreads and weakens within a few seconds. But make sure there is no chance of a repeat lightning strike. If near or in a body of water and you notice storm clouds approaching get out immediately. Sometimes there is very little warning before lightning strikes the water.
If you are in a car and there are fallen electrical wires do NOT get out of your car. Do NOT touch the door handle, the steering wheel, the radio knobs or anything else. As long as you stay in the car and in your seat you are most likely insulated. The minute you touch the door or you set your foot on the ground you will create a route through which the electricity can travel, with you being that route.
Be careful of puddles. For example, if there is a wire in a puddle and you step in the puddle then you might get electrocuted.