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Electrical Burns

Author / Coordinator:  
Mayo Clinic
March 2007

An electrical burn may appear minor, but the damage can extend deep into the tissues beneath your skin. If a strong electrical current passes through your body, internal damage such as a heart rhythm disturbance or cardiac arrest can occur.

Sometimes the jolt associated with the electrical injury can cause you to be thrown or to fall, resulting in fractures or other associated injuries. Dial 911 or call for emergency medical assistance.

While helping someone with an electrical burn and waiting for medical help, follow these steps:

Look first. Don’t touch. The person may still be in contact with the electrical source. Touching the person may pass the current through you.

Turn off the source of electricity if possible. If not, move the source away from you and the affected person using a nonconducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood.

Check for breathing. Once the person is free of the source of electricity, ensure the person is breathing. If breathing has stopped or you suspect the person’s airway is blocked, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Cover the affected areas. If the person is breathing, cover any burned areas with a sterile gauze bandage, if available, or a clean cloth. Don’t use a blanket or towel. Fluffy fibers can be irritating.

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