First Aid: Electrical Shocks

Seek medical help if any of the following is true:

  • The skin is burned, singed, or appears punctured.

  • The victim acts dazed or confused.

  • The victim was in contact with  lightning, even if he or she appears normal.

Call 911 immediately if the victim has any of the following:

  • A weak, irregular, or nonexistent pulse

  • The victim is unconscious for any length of time.

  • Symptoms of shock like cool, clammy skin

  • Trouble breathing

  • Burns

While you wait for help:

  1. Reassure the person.

  2. Treat for shock or provide rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.

If a car is trapped beneath a downed power line, don`t touch the car. Tell the occupants to stay in the car. Note:The rubber wheels offer protection from the current only to the people inside the car.

Step 1. Stop the source

  • To stop current coming from an outlet, unplug the power cord or switch off circuit breakers or unscrew fuses.

  • To stop current in power lines, call the local power company and fire department.

  • Don’t risk severe electric shock by approaching downed power lines.

  • Don’t use a tree limb to lift downed power lines. Moisture in the wood may conduct electricity from the lines to you.

Step 2. Check breathing

Woman lying on back on floor. Plastic film is over woman's nose and mouth. Hands are locked together and pressing on woman's chest. Arrows inside show blood moving from heart to brain and body. Symbols for oxygen are in brain.

  • Make sure the victim is breathing.

  • Perform rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.

    When performing CPR, focus on giving chest compressions. Alternate with rescue breathing only if you’re trained in CPR and are comfortable performing rescue breathing. Research has found that when done correctly, chest compressions alone are just as effective.

Step 3. Care for injuries

  • Treat physical shock by raising the person’s legs and covering the upper body.

  • Look for burns where the current entered and left the body, usually on a hand or foot. Check all 4 extremities as there may be different entrance and exit points.

Lightning strike

Lightning is electrical current that flashes from the clouds to the ground. It can travel through a body’s cells to reach the ground. Injuries common to lightning strike include burns, heart problems, bone and spinal column fractures, memory loss, and damage to hearing or eyesight:

  • Call 911 or seek medical help.

  • Perform rescue breathing or CPR, if needed.


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