Electrocution is a related set of injuries caused by direct contact with live electrical connections. The effects can vary from minor to causing cardiac arrest.
Actions and Treatment
|Before attempting to treat an electrocution victim, ensure they are not still in contact with live electricity. Turn off the power at the main or remove the victim from contact using a non-conducting material, such as a wooden pole.|
- Be aware of Danger - The clear danger in this situation is the electrical supply.
- If the victim is still touching a live electrical source, either turn off the power to the source, or break the victim's contact with it. Find a non-conductive object (wooden broom handles are commonly used) and break the contact between the victim and the source. Should the victim be in contact with downed power lines, do not attempt a rescue. Instead, call emergency services and wait for professional rescuers to come and ensure the power lines are no longer live.
- Call an ambulance immediately - all victims of electrocution, whether conscious or unconscious require assessment in hospital.
- After ensuring the area is safe, begin a primary assessment - check ABCs & begin CPR if required.
- Conduct a secondary assessment looking specifically for 2 electrical burns.
- Electrical burns look like third-degree burns, but are not surrounded by first- and second-degree burns. They always come in pairs: an entry wound (smaller) and exit wound (larger). You should cover the wounds with nonstick, sterile dressings. Remember that the most serious problem is rarely the burn, and cardiac arrest is very possible.
Electrocution causing unconsciousness
Serious electrocution may cause unconsciousness, at least for a brief period. If this is the case, conduct your primary assessment by checking ABCs. If they are not breathing, begin CPR. Airway swelling can occur from being electrocuted. Frequently check the victim's breathing.
If the victim received a serious electric shock, do not put the victim in the recovery position. Head/neck/back injuries along with multiple fractures can occur from strong muscle contractions from being electrocuted. Begin a secondary assessment, looking specifically for 2 or more electrical burns - one entrance wound and one exit wound. Continually evaluate the ABCs. Cardiac rhythm disturbances can quickly cause the victim to go into cardiac arrest.
Electrocution not causing unconsciousness
Those victims who are not rendered unconscious are likely to feel unwell after the experience, and may well complain of numbness or pins & needles in the area where through the electricity has passed. These victims must still be transported to a hospital for evaluation, as heart rhythm disturbances can lead to cardiac arrest.