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Electric shock and burn symptoms

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if the person who has received an electric shock:

  • has lost consciousness, even for a second
  • is breathing very fast or very slow
  • has a heartbeat which is very fast, or very slow, or irregular.

Always take the person who has been shocked to the nearest emergency department for assessment.

The signs and symptoms of an electric shock depend on:

  • the type of current
  • how high the voltage is
  • how the electricity moved through the body
  • how long the person was in contact with the electricity
  • the person’s overall health.

If the shock is mild, it may cause only pain, a fright and a small burn. But if it is serious, it may cause:

  • loss of consciousness
  • an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack
  • broken bones
  • serious burns
  • muscle spasms and pain
  • seizures.

Safety

If someone near you receives an electric shock, do not put yourself in danger:

  • look first, don’t touch – the person may still be in contact with the electricity, and if you touch them, you will receive an electric shock
  • switch off the electricity at the mains, remove fuses, turn off all powerpoints and unplug all cords
  • if that’s not possible, use material that does not conduct electricity, such as a broom handle, to separate the person from the electricity source
  • take particular care if the victim is in contact with water, which carries electricity.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your electric shocked or electric burn, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

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