What to do if your child has received an electrical shock

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Many people have experienced an electric shock at some point in their lives. An electrical injury is damage to the skin or internal organs when a person comes into direct contact with electrical current. Children are at greatest risk for these injuries that can cause anything from minor discomfort to serious injury.

Dr. Heather Edgley, emergency room physician with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, says the severity of the injuries depends on the voltage of electricity and how long the child was exposed. The types of injury can include cardiac arrest due to the electrical effect on the heart; heart, nerve and tissue damage caused by current passing through the body; and thermal burns from contact with the electrical source.

Disconnect the power supply before touching an injured child receiving current. Never touch a live wire with your hands. If you have to remove a live wire from a child, use something like a dry stick, rolled up newspaper or clothing. If you can’t remove the source of current, try to move the child, but not with bare hands. Insulate yourself with rubber or another nonconductive material because current can pass from the child to you.

A child who has received an electric shock should be seen by a pediatrician because shock may cause internal damage that can’t be detected without a medical examination. The pediatrician will clean and dress surface burns and order tests for signs of damage to internal organs. Mouth burns caused by biting an electrical cord, for instance, can be much deeper than they look. Surgery may be required, even after initial healing. Bleeding from mouth burns can occur hours or days after injury. If bleeding occurs, apply a clean pad and call the doctor immediately. A child with severe burns or any sign of brain or heart damage will be hospitalized.

To prevent electric shock, supervise your children, cover all electrical outlets, make sure all wires are properly insulated and tucked away from a child’s reach, keep small appliances away from sources of water and don’t swim next to docks. Many docks have electricity that might not be properly grounded.

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