When you touch a light switch to turn on a light, you may receive a
minor electrical shock. You may feel tingling in your hand or arm. Usually,
this tingling goes away in a few minutes. If you do not have damage to the skin
or other symptoms, there is no reason to worry.
If your skin is burned by electricity, there is cause for concern.
Electrical burns may look minor at first. But the burn may be more serious if
tissues along the path of the electrical current are damaged. All the damage
from these burns might not be seen for up to 10 days after the burn. There
might be burns where the electrical current enters the body and also where it
leaves the body.
When electricity passes though your body, the electricity may injure
blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. The electrical current may cause rapid and
severe swelling in the throat and lungs, making it hard for a person to
breathe. As the electrical current passes through the heart muscle, heartbeat
problems can develop.
Electricity passing through your body can be powerful enough to cause
a fall. This can cause other injuries such as fractures. Electricity can also
cause strong muscle contractions that can cause injury.
The skin burn from lightning strikes may not be severe. Lightning
current usually flows over the body (flashover) and does not injure deeper
organs or tissues, which is the reason some people can survive a lightning
strike. A direct lightning strike can occur when a person is holding or wearing
metal objects. Lightning can also strike objects near a person, and some of the
lightning current can travel to the person indirectly (called a splash). The
electrical current from lightning can cause the same problems as from other
electrical sources, depending on how direct the strike is. Participating in
outdoor sports activities increases your risk of being struck by
You need to be evaluated by a doctor if you have been struck by
lightning, even if the injury appears minor. Burns from a lightning strike or
electrical power also need to be evaluated by a doctor.
Stun guns and tasers are called "electronic weapons." They are
handheld weapons that use electricity to stun a person. The electricity causes
uncontrollable muscle contractions. After being stunned with electricity, the
person usually falls to the ground.
These weapons are less likely to cause death or injury than other
weapons, such as handguns. But stun guns and tasers can cause serious
medical problems, such as irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). Others types of
injuries include burns, cuts, muscle problems (rhabdomyolysis), twisting of a testicle (testicular
December 27, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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