Hesperian Health Guides

Electric shock

Electric shock can cause burns and stop the heart.

a man lying on the floor with his hand touching a wire.
First cut the power or use a non-metal tool to move the wire. Then move the person. This protects you from getting shocked too.
  1. If a person is being shocked: Do not touch the person. The electricity can pass through his body and shock anyone who touches him. First, unplug or turn off the machine or tool causing the shock. If you cannot turn off the power, use dry clothing, rope, or a piece of wood, such as a broom handle, as a tool to separate the victim from the power source. Do not use anything wet or made of metal. If the person is lying in water, use the wood or cloth to drag him out, and do not step in the water yourself! Then you can move the person away from the source of electricity.
  2. Electric shock can cause breathing to stop. Start 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. As with 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.

This page was updated:05 Feb 2020