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First Aid for Electric Shock Victims

Common causes of electrocution include electric cords, electrical wiring, electrical outlets, electric appliances, machinery, high-voltage power lines and lightning.

When faced with a situation dealing with a person who has been electrocuted, it is important to assess the situation before rushing into help the victim. He or she may still be connected to the source of the electricity. Do not touch the person with your bare hands. One should first try to turn off the electrical source or the mains if possible, try to break contact with the source by using a long insulated or non- conducting object such as a broom or stick.

*Water is an extremely good conductor, beware of wet hands and wet floors.

If the victim is being electrocuted by high voltage power lines, do not attempt to rescue, but inform emergency services immediately and wait for professional rescuers. Power lines are usually instantaneously fatal, and high voltage electricity can arc several meters through the air.

Even if the person is conscious after the electrical shock, assessment by a doctor is mandatory.

If the person is unconscious, after clearing the danger away, immediately call emergency services. The victim may be in shock and will need prompt medical attention.

First aid until emergency services arrive includes:

1.Keeping the victim lying down. Do not move the victim if there is a suspicion of neck or spine injuries unless absolutely necessary.

2.Check the victims breathing and for signs of life. Check for response – speak or shout to the victim. Pinch thumbs, look at face for pain response.

3.Check the airway for obvious obstructions, open the airway by lifting the chin and tilting the head back. Remove any obstructions seen, sometimes the tongue drops back and blocks the throat.

4.Check breathing by using the side of your face, feel and listen for breathing for 10 seconds at the same time look at the chest for any rise and fall. Airway swelling can occur from being electrocuted, therefore frequently check the victim’s breathing.

5.Check the circulation, by checking the carotid pulse for 10 seconds.

6.If the victim is not breathing, apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim has no pulse, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Electrocution causes tissue damage, burns and most importantly cardiac problems since the electricity passes through the heart as well and not just superficial tissues .

Cardiac problems can range from arrhythmias to full blown cardiac arrest.

Cardiac dysfunction can occur hours to days later.