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Symptoms and Signs of Electrical Injuries

Doctor's Notes on Electrical Injuries

Electrical injuries are injuries to a portion of the body that has electricity pass through it; the electricity injury may include second and third degree burns of the skin, some extensive, some at the entry and exit site of the current and some small. However, internal damage is sometimes difficult to determine quickly, but may cause significant muscle damage and internal organ compromise. For example, irregular heartbeats or even heart beat stoppage can occur (CPR needs to begin and 911 needs to be called). Other symptoms include feeling weak, having hearing loss, be confused and/or disoriented. DC electrical sources tend to throw people away from the electrical shocking source while AC electrical sources tend to cause muscle spasms that prolong contact (for example, it can cause the hand to flex closed thereby gripping a touched AC wire).

The cause of electrical injuries is the electrical current that generates heat as it moves through body tissue and the current that overwhelms some or most of the body’s electrical system.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Electrical Injuries Symptoms

  • Source and ground burns caused by electric current may be second to third degree and limited in size. If the current passes along the skin, the tissue may have extensive partial thickness burns (second degree).
  • People who have an electrical injury may be confused, be disoriented, suffer hearing loss, and feel weak.
  • Severe cases involve heartbeat irregularities or cause the heart to stop, requiring immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

First Aid & Emergencies When to Call 911 Slideshow

First Aid & Emergencies When to Call 911 Slideshow

One of your most powerful tools is your own observation. Most of us have a sense for when a situation is dangerous. If your instinct or intuition tells you it's serious, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. It's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.