Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Electric shocks cause about 1,000 deaths in the United States each year. These injuries can be caused when electricity passes through the body from a mechanical source or from lightning, which accounts for only about one-fifth of all cases.
Only about 3-15 percent of all people who suffer electrical injuries will die, though many of them require amputation or are disfigured by burns resulting from the electrical shock.
Children, especially toddlers, can be electrocuted when they bite into electrical cords, poke metal objects into unprotected outlets or appliances, or use electric toys or appliances incorrectly. Shock can also occur when electric current comes into contact with water in which a child is sitting or standing.
Severity of an electrical shock injury depends on several factors: the voltage, the amount of current, the body’s resistance to the current, where the current entered the body, and how long the body remained in contact with the current. Household appliances are low-voltage sources and are less likely to cause serious injury if one is exposed to their current, but even low voltage can cause death, depending on how these factors interact. Thin or wet skin is much less resistant to electrical current, meaning that the current can cause little or no damage to the skin, while severely burning internal organs and tissues.
The nervous system is especially at risk for injury due to electrical shock. Neurological problems are the most common type of injury suffered after exposure to an electrical current. Nerve damage may be minor and disappear on its own, or with medical treatment, or it may be severe and permanent.
Electricity’s effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are the most life-threatening. Electrical currents can paralyze the respiratory system and change the way the heart beats, which leads to instant death. Small veins and arteries can develop clots within them, which may damage the tissues that they supply blood to. Without blood, those tissues may need to be amputated.
If your child comes into contact with electricity, turn the power off first, by pulling the plug or turning off the switch, if possible. If this is not possible, you should try to remove the source of electricity with something that does not conduct it, such as a dry stick, an insulated tool, a rope or a rolled-up newspaper.
Try to pull the child away from the source of electric current if you cannot remove the source itself. Do not touch the child with your bare hands when she is attached to the source of the current.
As soon as the child is removed from the source, or the current is turned off, check her breathing, pulse, skin color and ability to respond. If the child is not breathing or her heart has stopped beating or is beating very rapidly or irregularly, immediately begin CPR and have someone call 911. However, you should not move the child, because spinal fracture can occur with severe electrical shock.
To prevent electrical shock, look around for any potential dangers, such as:
Damaged appliances, wiring, electric cords and plugs, which should be repaired or replaced. Repairs should be made only by people with proper training.
Hair dryers, radios or other electrical appliances should never be used in the bathroom or anywhere that they might come in contact with water.
Electrical outlets should be covered with plastic safety covers.
If you hear thunder and are outdoors, you should go indoors or seek shelter as quickly as possible, even if it is not raining. Move away from tall or metallic structures during a thunderstorm.
Telephones, computers, hair dryers and other appliances should not be used during thunderstorms, as they can conduct electrical currents from lightning.