Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Electric shock

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HealthWiki > New Where There Is No Doctor > First Aid > Electric shock


Electric shock can cause burns or can stop the heart.

a man lying on the floor with his hand touching a wire.
Move the person, not the wire, to protect yourself.
  1. Move the person away from the source of electricity and out of any pools of water. If the person is still touching any wires, use a piece of wood to move the wire. Do not touch any electrical wires directly until you are sure the power is turned off.
  2. Electric shock can stop breathing. Give rescue breathing.
  3. If there is no heartbeat try to start the heart by giving chest compressions – press hard and fast on the middle of the chest. It may take a long time. Keep trying.
  4. If the person is breathing and her heart is beating, look for signs
    of burns. Like a gunshot wound, there should be both an entry and exit burn.
  5. Check for other injuries. Mental confusion, nerve damage (problems with feeling or movement), hearing loss, or circulation problems can all arise. If the person fell, he may have a head injury, broken bones, or bleeding.

If the shock was low-voltage, and the person has no sign of problems after a few hours, he will likely be OK. If the shock was high-voltage or from lightening, or if the person has lingering problems, be more cautious. Burns inside the body can be much more severe than burns on the skin where the electricity entered and left the body. IV fluids and other remedies may be needed. It may take days or weeks to know the real damage.


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