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First Aid for Electric Shock

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

James Heilman, MD

A person who was affected by a nearby lightning strike. Note the slight branching redness traveling up his leg from the effects of the current.


All incidents of Electric Shocks should be evaluated by a trained medical professional, as soon as possible! DO NOT wait! Failure to obtain evaluation as soon as possible may result in serious injury or death. Call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately, if you undergo an Electric Shock.

What is Electric Shock?

  • An Electric Shock is the damage of skin, bones, muscles, and organs caused by the passage of electric current through the body. Depending on whether the condition is mild or severe, an Electric Shock may be a life-threatening emergency
  • The severity of the condition depends on the type of current, the quantum of current (whether low-voltage or high-voltage), and specific involvement of the body (with respect to passage of current)

What are the Causes of Electric Shock?

The cause factors of an Electric Shock could include:

  • Faulty electrical equipment
  • Improper insulation
  • Lightning
  • Electric arc formation from high voltage lines

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Electric Shock?

The signs and symptoms of Electric Shock include:

  • Heart attack (also termed as cardiac arrest or myocardial infarction)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (heart rhythm abnormality)
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Seizures
  • Burn marks, such as blisters
  • Fracture (from falls)
  • Respiratory failure
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of consciousness

How is First Aid administered for Electric Shock?

First Aid tips for an Electric Shock:

  • Eliminate contact with the electrical source immediately: Turn the switch off, or turn off the circuit breaker, or using a non-conducting material, such as a wooden plank, firm cardboard, or a piece of plastic item (or even a piece of furniture, like a chair), as a conduit, push the person away from the electrical source. DO NOT touch the person, until this is accomplished
  • If the electrical source is a high voltage line, avoid approaching the affected individual, but call 9-1-1 immediately. Only the electric power company can turn off high power lines; but, you may try to push the person away from the electrical source, using a non-conducting material (made of wood, plastic, or cardboard), if it is available
  • If the individual has trouble (or stopped) breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately
  • Prevent shock, by making the individual lay down with legs raised above their heart-level, and cover him/her with a blanket
  • If there are minor external burns, these should be cooled with running water (and NOT ice), or soak for 10 minutes, until the burnt area cools down. Then, cover the affected area with a sterile gauze or cloth
  • Seek help from a medical professional, as early as possible

Who should administer First Aid for Electric Shock?

In case of an Electric Shock, call 9-1-1 immediately, since there might be several internal injuries.  Anyone in close proximity of the affected individual can provide First Aid, while awaiting medical help.

What is the Prognosis of Electric Shock?

The prognosis depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Age and health of the individual
  • Area and location of contact with electrical source
  • Properties of electrical power source (low or high)
  • Duration of contact
  • How soon medical help was received

How can Electric Shock be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to avoid/prevent an Electric Shock include:

  • Check insulation on electric appliances before usage
  • Avoid usage of electrical equipment, in close vicinity of water (or wet locations)
  • Child-proof your house
  • Educate children on electrical safety
  • Properly ground high-power equipment
  • Follow manufacturer’s safety recommendations, when using (and repairing) electric appliances
  • Install electrical outlets with surge protectors
  • Always know the location of circuit breakers
  • Wear protective gear (gloves, boots), especially while working on high-power equipment

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

The most crucial step is to eliminate contact with the electrical source and call 9-1-1.

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 26, 2013
Last updated: March 5, 2018