Electrical Burn

An electrical burn can cause damage to both the skin and deeper tissues. If an electrical burn is minor and only affects the skin, it can be treated like other burns. If deeper tissues (muscles, nerves, blood vessels) are injured, hospital care may be needed. Electrical burns may go deep into the body, but signs of a burn on the skin may be minimal. These deeper burns may affect the heart and other vital organ systems. Significant muscle damage or breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) can occur if enough electrical injury is sustained. This can cause muscular pain, fatigue, and spasms. It may also cause your urine to become very dark, because products from the muscle breakdown end up in the urine. If you have any of these symptoms, you must seek immediate medical care. Electrical injuries may also cause trauma due to falling or being "knocked back" by the electrical shock. This may result in significant injury to an extremity or to the head, resulting in loss of consciousness.

ExitCare ImageThe degree of damage is related to the type of current (alternating [AC] or direct [DC]) and the amount of voltage (low or high). Most electrical injuries in the home are low voltage AC injuries, but it is important to tell your caregiver how the electrical burn happened to help determine your treatment. Most electrical burns are not life-threatening, but cardiac or respiratory arrest can occur from electrical injuries.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Keep the burn area clean and dry.

  • Use burn dressings, burn creams, and ointments only as directed by your caregiver. Dressings may be changed once or twice each day or as directed.

  • Rest the burn area and keep it raised (elevated) to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Take pain medicine as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop a fever, redness, or pus drainage.

  • You develop chest pain or shortness of breath.

  • You develop new numbness or weakness in any of your extremities.

  • You have significant pain and swelling in any of your extremities.

  • Your urine becomes very dark, and you have more pain, fatigue, and muscle spasms.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.