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 Emergency & First Aid: Electric Shock: First Aid for Electric Shock - Emergency Conditions 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©

Electric Shock

Electric shock occurs when an electric current flows through the body. The human body is made up of 60% to 70% water. This makes it a good conductor of electricity. Burns, damage to internal organs, heart rhythm problems, and death can result from electric shock.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Shocking sensations. Numbness or tingling. A change in vision, speech, or in any sensation.
  • Burns or open wounds. These occur where the electricity enters and exits the body.
  • Muscle spasms or contractions.
  • Sudden immobility or fractures. A body part may looked deformed.
  • Interrupted breathing. Irregular heartbeats or chest pain.
  • Seizures.
  • Unconsciousness.

  • A small child who bites or sucks on an electric cord can have a facial injury or distinct burn around the rim of the mouth.

    Electric Shock can cause tissue damage under the skin's surface.


  • Touching a high-voltage (more than 1,000 volts) source, such as high-tension wires that fall during a storm. Touching someone who is still touching a live current. Touching a low-voltage (less than 1,000 volts) current source, such as an electric socket or worn cord.
  • Mixing water and electricity.
  • Being struck by lightning. A bolt of lightning carries as many as 30 million volts.

  • Treatment

    Contact with electricity from a high-voltage wire or being struck by lightning needs emergency medical care. Contact with electricity from a low-voltage current needs emergency medical care if any signs or symptoms listed above are present. A person who does not have any symptoms should still see a doctor to check for possible internal injuries.

    To Avoid Being Harmed by Lightning

  • Heed weather warnings.
  • Take shelter in a building, if you can.
  • Stay in your car (if it is not a convertible) rather than out in the open.
  • If you are caught outside, avoid tall trees, open water, metal objects, and high ground. Crawl into a low-lying place or curl up on the ground, head to knees with your head touching the ground.
  • Questions to Ask

    Do any of these problems occur?

  • The person is still in contact with the electric source or was in contact with a high-voltage wire.
  • The person was struck by lightning.
  • The person is not breathing.
  • (Note: Give first aid for burns as needed. See below)

    Has an electric shock gone through the body in such a way that it might have passed through the center of the chest? Or, are any signs and symptoms of electric shock listed above present?

    After having an electric shock, are any of these problems present?

  • Cough with phlegm. Fever. Headache.
  • Wounds are not healing.
  • Tetanus shots are not up-to-date.
  • Self-Care / First Aid

    Beware! Do not put yourself in danger to give first aid. Do not touch the

    person until power is shut off.

  • If the source is a high-voltage wire or lightning, call 9-1-1!
  • It is safe to touch a person struck by lightning.
  • If the source is a low-voltage current, remove the fuse or switch off the circuit breaker to the electrical outlet.
  • If you can't shut off the source, with dry feet and hands, use a board, wooden stick, rope, etc. to get the person away from the source.
  • If it is safe for you to touch the person, check for a response. (See Step 2 in First Aid Precautions.) Give CPR, as needed.
  • Unless it is absolutely necessary, don't move the person. He or she could have a traumatic injury, especially to the head or neck.
  • Check for burns. Cover burned areas with dry, sterile dressings.
  • Give first aid for Shock, if needed.
  • Prevention

  • Stay clear of fallen wires. Inform the police, electric company, etc.
  • Install ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs) in wall outlets of bathrooms, kitchens, etc. With GFCIs, when an electrical appliance falls into water, the current is instantly cut off.
  • Don't turn electrical switches on or off or touch an electric appliance while your hands are wet, while standing in water, or when sitting in a bathtub.
  • Replace worn cords and wiring.
  • Heed warnings to avoid electrical hazards.

  • Cover all electric sockets with plastic safety caps.
  • Before you do electrical repairs, remove the fuse from the fuse box or switch off the circuit breaker. Don't just turn off the appliance or light switch.
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