When an electric current passes through the body, the damage it does depends on the intensity of the current (amperes, milliamperes, or microamperes), the resistance of the tissues it passes through, the kind of current (AC, DC, or mixed), and the frequency and duration of current flow.
Mild electric shock can cause a local, unpleasant tingling or a painful sensation. Severe electric shock can cause ventricular fibrillation, asystole, respiratory paralysis, burns, and death. Even the smallest electric current - if it passes through the heart - may induce ventricular fibrillation or another arrhythmia that progresses to fibrillation or myocardial infarction.
In the United States, about 1,000 people die of electric shock each year. Electric shock is a particular hazard in the facility.
The greatest threats to life from electric shock include cardiac arrhythmias, renal failure secondary to the precipitation of myoglobin and hemoglobin in the kidneys, and electrolyte abnormalities, such as hyperkalemia and hypocalcemia from massive muscle breakdown.
Electric shock usually follows accidental contact with an exposed part of an electrical appliance or wiring. It also may result from lightning or the flash of electric arcs from high-voltage power lines or machines.
The current can cause a true electrical injury if it passes through the body. If it doesn't pass through the body, it can cause arc or flash burns. Thermal surface burns can result from associated heat and flames.
Symptoms of electric shock
The typical symptoms of an electric shock include:
An electrocardiogram (ECG), arterial blood gas analysis, urine myoglobin tests, and X-rays of injured areas are used to evaluate internal damage and guide treatment.
The first step in treatment involves separating the victim from the current source by turning it off or unplugging it. If this isn't possible, the victim should be pulled free with a non conductive device, such as a loop of dry cloth or rubber, a dry rope, or a leather strap.
After interrupting the current source, perform emergency measures, including assessing vital functions and instituting cardiopulmonary resuscitation(CPR) if the patient has no respirations or pulse.
Parents and other adults need to be alert to possible electric dangers in the home. Damaged electric appliances, wiring, cords, and plugs should be repaired or replaced. Electrical repairs should be attempted only by people with the proper training. Electric outlets require safety covers in homes with young children. Avoid using electrical appliances while showering or wet.
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