Electric Shock (cont.)
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Electric Shock Causes
Adolescents and adults are prone to high voltage shock caused by mischievous exploration and exposure at work. About 1,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of electrocution. Most of these deaths are related to on-the-job injuries.
Many variables determine what injuries may occur, if any. These variables include the type of current (AC or DC), the amount of current (determined by the voltage of the source and the resistance of the tissues involved), and the pathway the electricity takes through the body. Low voltage electricity (less than 500 volts) does not normally cause significant injury to humans. Exposure to high voltage electricity (greater than 500 volts) has the potential to result in serious damage.
If a person is going to help someone who has sustained a high voltage shock, he or she needs to be very careful that they don't become a second victim of a similar electrical shock. If a high voltage line has fallen to the ground, there may be a circle of current spreading out from the tip of the line. A person's best and safest action is to call 911. The electric company will be notified so that the power can be shut off. A victim who has fallen from a height or sustained a severe shock causing multiple injuries may have a serious neck injury and should not be moved without first protecting the neck.
Children are not often seriously injured by electricity. They are prone to shock by the low voltage (110-220 volts) found in typical household current. In children aged 12 years and younger, household appliance electrical cords and extension cords caused more than 63% of injuries in one study. Wall outlets were responsible for 15% of injuries.
Lightening injuries, an unusual form of electric shock, may show external burns, but injure or kill due to cardiac or respiratory arrest; neurologic injury is common. Other injuries are due to muscle contractions or trauma from explosive forces (for example, tree sap and fluid being superheated and trees blown apart due to steam pressure).
Timothy Price, MD
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