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First Aid for Electrical Burns

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

An Electrical Burn is the damage caused by passage of an electric current through the body. The type of burn or damage depends on the exposure time amount, type and strength of the electrical current.


All Electric Burns 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 suffered any Electric Burns.

What is Electrical Burns?

An Electrical Burn is the damage caused by passage of an electric current through the body. The type of burn or damage depends on the exposure time amount, type and strength of the electrical current.

What are the Causes of Electrical Burns?

The cause factors of Electrical Burns could include:

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

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Electrical Burns?

There are three kinds of burns:

  • In first degree burns, only the outer skin is burnt
  • In second degree burns, two layers of skin are affected
  • In third degree burns, the two skin layers, the surrounding muscle and bone, are affected

The signs and symptoms and First Aid administered, vary according to the severity of Electrical Burns. The signs and symptoms include:

  • First degree burns: Swelling, redness of skin, and pain
  • Second degree burns: Swelling of skin, white or charred appearance, blisters, and severe pain
  • Third degree burns are serious and symptoms include: Extreme pain, charred peeling skin, and shock

How is First Aid administered for Electrical Burns?

First Aid tips for Electrical Burns:

  • DO NOT touch the person, until contact with the electrical source is eliminated
  • 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
  • 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
  • Cool minor external burns 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
  • Monitor vital signs until medical help arrives
  • Do not attempt to remove pieces of cloth or any other material stuck to the burnt wound, until medical help arrives
  • If available, cover the victim with warm blanket to keep them warm

Who should administer First Aid for Electrical Burns?

Anyone in close proximity of the affected individual can provide First Aid. Cal 9-1-1, unless it is a minor localized burn, the patient is conscious, and not in any acute distress.

What is the Prognosis of Electrical Burns?

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 Electrical Burns 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 appropriately.

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