How Serious Can An Electrical Burn Be?

An electrical burn is a peculiar type of injury. It is not just your average scrape or bruise: it is a burn that occurs when electricity passes through the body. This injury often results from contact with electrical wiring, lightning strikes, or high-voltage power lines.

Electrical burns can be serious physical injuries. They can range from minor surface burns to severe deep tissue burns. The severity of these burns is not always apparent at first glance, but all burns require immediate medical attention. If severe, electrical burns can cause significant internal injuries including heart arrhythmias or heart attacks. Electrical burns demand respect, caution, and swift action.

At TGH Urgent Care powered by FastTrack, we want to emphasize just how serious electrical burns can be. These injuries require immediate medical attention, and our team is equipped and ready to provide you with care.

Electrical burns are unpredictable and can escalate quickly, making prompt treatment crucial. Our healthcare professionals at TGH Urgent Care understand the urgency of these situations and are available seven days a week to offer immediate, efficient care for such injuries. Remember, when dealing with electrical burns, every second counts, and choosing TGH Urgent Care could make all the difference.

Types of Electrical Burns

When electricity comes into contact with the body, the result can be a myriad of different types of burns including surface, deep tissue, and arc burns.

Surface Burns

Surface burns are also known as first-degree electrical burns. These are the least severe types of electrical burns, effecting only the epidermis or the outermost layer of skin. The skin may appear red, swollen, and may be painful to touch. While these burns may not appear too severe, don’t be fooled: even a simple surface burn should be treated with care to prevent infection or further damage to the skin.

Deep Tissue Burns

Deep tissue burns, or second-degree electrical burns, are a more serious matter. These burns extend beyond the surface of the skin, effecting both the epidermis and the dermis, the skin layer beneath the top layers of skin. Symptoms of a deep tissue burn can include blisters, severe pain, and skin that may appear red, white, or splotchy. If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing a deep tissue burn, seek medical attention immediately.

Arc Burns

Arc burns are caused by an electrical arc passing over the skin. This can happen when the body gets too close to a high-voltage source, causing an arc of electricity to jump from the source to the body. This results in intense heat being produced, causing severe burns. Arc burns can be extremely dangerous, often resulting in deep tissue damage and, in some cases, can even be fatal.

Causes of Electrical Burns

Electrical burns can occur in a variety of ways, and it is not always as dramatic as getting struck by lightning. Sometimes, the causes are much more mundane but no less dangerous.

Accidental Contact with Exposed Parts of Electrical Appliances or Wiring

One common cause of electrical burns is accidental contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances or wiring. This can happen when the insulating material has been removed from an extension cord or when someone touches electrical equipment that has been improperly used or maintained. Receiving a burn from exposed wires is a stark reminder to always handle electrical appliances with care and to keep an eye out for frayed wires or damaged equipment.

Flash Injuries Caused by an Electrical Arc

Another cause of electrical burns is flash injuries. These are caused by an arc flash, an intense burst of heat and light produced when electricity jumps between conductors. Flash injuries typically produce superficial burns since no electrical current travels past the skin. As always, burns should receive medical attention quickly even if they appear superficial.

High Voltage Wires or Lightning Strikes

It might seem like something straight out of a movie, but people do get struck by lightning, and it can cause severe electrical burns. Also, coming in contact with high-voltage wires at a job site or weather-related incidents can cause a similar severe electrical burn. These types of incidents will often lead to deep tissue damage and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms and Severity of Electrical Burns

Electrical burns can manifest in a variety of ways with symptoms ranging from minor discomfort to severe and life-threatening conditions.

Minor Symptoms

Electrical burns can present with symptoms that are similar to other types of burns. This might include redness, swelling, and pain at the site of the burn. The skin might also feel warm or tender to the touch. While these symptoms might seem manageable, it’s still crucial to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying damage that is not immediately visible.

Severe Symptoms

Severe burn symptoms may include severe burns at the site where the electricity entered and exited the body (often on the hands or feet), visible physical signs of a burn, irregular heart rhythms, muscle pain and/or contractions, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. In these situations, immediate medical help is vital.

Long-Term Effects

Electrical burns may not just cause immediate harm; they can also have long-term effects. Depending on the severity of the burn and the extent of the internal injuries, victims may suffer from ongoing pain, nerve damage, and scarring after an electrical burn. There’s also the potential for psychological trauma, particularly in cases where the victim lost consciousness or experienced a near-death event. It’s essential to remember that healing from an electrical burn is a process that extends far beyond the initial injury, and comprehensive medical and psychological care may be required.

Treatment Options for Electrical Burns

First Aid for Electrical Burns

The first aid to an electrical burn is crucial to the overall healing of the burn site. The initial step is to ensure that the victim is no longer in contact with the electrical source. If it is safe to do so, remove any clothing around the burn. Applying a cool compress or immersing the area in cool tap water can help soothe the skin. Once soothed, cover the burned area with a sterile gauze bandage or a clean cloth. Avoid using a blanket or towel, as loose fibers can stick to the burn.

Medical Treatments (excluding medication)

Once you’ve made it to a healthcare provider, there are several medical treatments that might be used including the application of antibiotic ointments to prevent infection. It is also crucial to treat any internal trauma resulting from the electrical shock, which might require additional procedures or interventions.

Surgical Interventions

In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. This could involve debridement, where dead tissue is removed from the burn area, or skin grafting, where healthy skin is transplanted into the burn area to aid in healing. In some cases, locoregional flaps, which involve moving skin and tissue from an adjacent area, can be used to cover electrical burn wounds.

Physical Therapy

Recovering from an electrical burn doesn’t stop once the wound has healed. Physical therapy can play a crucial role in rehabilitation, helping victims regain strength and mobility in the affected areas. Depending on the severity of the burn and any associated injuries, this might involve exercises to improve flexibility, strength training, or other therapeutic techniques. The goal is to restore as much function as possible to help individuals return to their normal activities.

Prevention of Electrical Burns

Electrical burns can be devastating, but the good news is that they’re often preventable. Let’s talk about how to keep you and your loved ones safe from experiencing an electrical burn.

Safety Measures at Home

  • Install child safety covers on all electrical outlets to prevent children from inserting objects into the sockets.
  • Avoid poking foreign objects into electrical plugs or appliances. This can cause an electrical shock and result in severe burns.
  • Regularly schedule maintenance checkups for your electrical equipment. During these checkups, look for frayed cords, damaged insulation, and broken plugs. These issues can lead to electrical burns if not addressed promptly. Always replace or repair any faulty equipment immediately.

Safety Measures at the Workplace

  • Ensure that all electrical outlets at your workplace have safety covers. This is especially important in industries that work directly with electricity.
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on all electrical equipment at your workplace. Look for similar issues as you would at home: frayed cords, damaged insulation, and broken plugs. Any faulty equipment should be replaced or repaired immediately.
  • Always use appropriate protective gear when working with electricity. This includes gloves, safety glasses, and other protective clothing that can minimize the risk of injury.

Education and Awareness

  • Understand the risks associated with electricity and know how to respond in case of an electrical burn. This education and awareness can help prevent injuries and ensure a quick, appropriate response if an injury does occur.
  • Always seek medical attention for electrical burns, even if they seem minor. Electricity can cause internal damage that is not always immediately visible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

An electrical burn is an injury that happens when electricity passes through the body. It can occur when encountering electrical wiring, equipment, lightning strikes, or high-voltage power lines.

Electrical burns can range from minor surface burns to severe deep tissue damage. The severity of these burns is not always apparent at first glance and may require immediate medical attention. Electrical burns can cause significant internal injuries including heart arrhythmias or heart attacks.

Symptoms can vary from visible burns on the skin to problems with internal organs. Some common symptoms include burns or charred skin at the site of the burn, numbness, weakness, muscle contractions, and irregular heartbeats.

Yes, following safety precautions when dealing with electricity can help prevent electrical burns. Avoid contact with exposed electrical wiring or equipment and stay clear of high-voltage power lines.

Seek immediate medical attention. While waiting for medical help, do not touch the person if they are still in contact with the electrical source. Once it is safe, start first aid by covering the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.

Final Thoughts on Electrical Burns

Given the severity of electrical burns, prevention is a crucial element to making sure you and your loved ones never have to experience an electrical burn. Making sure to follow safety measures at home and in the workplace, such as using child-safety covers on electrical outlets, avoiding inserting foreign objects into electrical plugs, and regularly scheduling maintenance checkups for electrical equipment will ensure you are kept safe from electrical burns.

Equally important is immediate treatment when an electrical burn does occur. This includes rinsing minor burns with cool water for at least 20 minutes, applying a sterile gauze bandage, and always seeking medical attention even for burns that appear minor. By taking these steps, we can help prevent electrical burns and ensure appropriate treatment when they do occur.

At TGH Urgent Care powered by FastTrack, we are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week, so it’s easy for you to make time in your daily schedule for any treatment. You can visit any of our Tampa, FL, area locations to be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, or if you would like to reduce your wait time once you arrive, you can sign in ahead of your visit using our On My Way system.



The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.

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