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First Aid for Electrical Burns

British Columbia Specific Information

Burns can damage your skin and other body tissues. Burns can be caused by heat, cold injuries, exposure to chemicals, and electrical injuries. For any of these injuries, it is important that you receive first aid right away to stop further damage and even save your life. For information on first aid for burns, see Burns and Electric Shock Home Treatment.

If you are concerned about a possible chemical burn, call Poison Control right away at 1-800-567-8911 toll-free in British Columbia or 604-682-5050 in Greater Vancouver. If you have an injury caused by a chemical burn, you should see a health care provider right away.

For more information on chemical burns, visit British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre. If you are concerned about a serious burn, call 9-1-1. For more information or if you are not sure whether to contact a health care provider, call 8-1-1 and speak to one of our registered nurses anytime of the day or night.

Topic Overview

The first steps to take when a person is in contact with an electrical source are:

  • Have someone call 911 or other emergency services.
  • Do not touch the "electrified person" with your hands.
  • Unplug the appliance or turn off the main power switch.
  • Try to remove the person from the electrical source, if you cannot turn the power off. Do this only if you can do so safely by:
    • Standing on a dry surface, such as a rubber doormat or a pile of papers or books. Make sure you are not standing in or near water.
    • Using a dry wooden object, such as a broom handle, to push the person away from the electrical source. Do not use anything wet or made of metal.
  • Check to see if the person responds to touch or being talked to after separating him or her from the electrical source. Electrical burns can affect the electrical activity of the heart and cause heartbeat changes. If the person is not responding, start CPR. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.

What should I do about electrical burns that aren't as serious?

  • Rinse the burns with water, and apply a bandage. There may be burns where the electrical current entered the body and where it left the body.
  • Call your doctor to discuss your burn injury. If you have a visible burn to the skin, an evaluation by your doctor is usually needed.

Credits

Current as of:
July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine