You know electrical shock can’t be good for you, but what does it actually do to your body?
Shock occurs when a person contacts a source of electrical energy. This current flows through part of the body, causing effects ranging from no injury to death.
The effects vary widely because of different factors. These include:
The path the current takes through the body.
The type of current, whether AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current).
The amperage or amount of the current.
The voltage or pressure forcing the current to flow.
Resistance to the current by body tissues.
Burns are the most common injury from electric shock. They may appear at the point where the current entered, such as the hand, and the point of exit to the ground, such as the heel. Severe burns can cause permanent disability and disfigurement. They may require extensive surgery, including amputation. Internal tissues and organs also can be burned by electrical shock. Infections are common in burn injuries and can be fatal.
Cardiac arrest is another effect of electrocution, as the current disrupts the heart’s electrical system.
Electric shock can indirectly cause other types of injuries. Broken bones may be the result of a fall if the victim is startled, rendered unconscious or thrown by strong muscle contractions caused by the electrical current. Injuries to the head, spine and internal organs can be caused by the impact of a fall.
Injury to the brain from electrical shock can cause permanent personality change, decreased mental capacity, seizure disorder, depression and anxiety.
Electrical injuries to children usually are caused by household current of 110 to 220 volts. Household appliance cords, extension cords and wall outlets cause most of the injuries. A burn to the mouth from biting an electric cord shows on the lip as a red or charred area.
Adolescents are more at risk for high voltage shock of 550 volts or more as a result of exploring electrical substations and utility vaults, climbing power poles and flying kites into lines.
For adults, death from electric shock is most likely to occur at work—but it isn’t just the high-tension power lines that kill.
Consider these effects of small amounts of current:
At one milli-amp, you can feel the current.
If you got the full effect of five to 10 milli-amps, you wouldn’t be able to let go.
At 60 milli-amps, the common Christmas tree light would probably kill you.
When you know what electrical current can do to your body, it makes sense to avoid contact. Be alert to hazards at work and at home.