The first full week in February marks Burn Awareness Week. #NBAW That’s why we have provided this electrical burns and safety guide to help protect your home, family, and especially children. An electrical burn often results from accidental contact with exposed wiring and other electrical components; it can occur due to a lightning strike too.
Common causes of injuries include children biting on electrical cords, utensils or metal objects being stuck into an outlet or appliance, or not shutting off the power supply when starting repairs and installations. Dropping a plugged-in appliance in water is a danger as well.
Signs of an Electrical Injury
If you or a child has been injured by electricity, symptoms include:
- Visible burns
- Severe muscle contractions
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling
- Confusion and disorientation
Exposure to electrical currents can also cause dangerously low blood pressure, seizures, and heart arrhythmias as well as loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest, and respiratory failure.
Types of Electrical Burns
Electrical burns, like other burns, are categorized according to their severity. Based on a physical exam, a medical professional can diagnose:
- 1st degree burns: Affect the outer layer of skin and are red and painful. Some swelling may be present; when touched, the skin will turn white.
- 2nd degree burns: Reach deeper into the skin, causing blistering, redness, and splotchiness. Significant swelling can occur.
- 3rd degree burns: All layers of the skin and underlying tissues are affected. The skin takes on a white, charred look; nerve damage results in little or no pain.
An electric shock and/or burn can cause more damage than is visible. Injuries include direct-contact burns and flame burns (when clothing is ignited). Also, electrical currents easily pass through the body, affecting deeper tissues and organs.
Preventing Electrical Burns and Other Injuries
There are many ways to protect your family. Some general safe practices include:
- Don’t use an electrical appliance near a water source.
- Always pull the plug (not on the cord) to disconnect the appliance.
- Replace any electrical tool that is worn, is overheated, causes a shock, gives off smoke/sparks, or has a frayed, cracked cord.
- Unplug any appliance before attempting to repair it.
- Leave at least three feet between combustible items/heat sources and clothes or curtains.
- Call 911 or an electric utility if a power line goes down near your home.
To protect children, parents should be especially mindful of electrical safety. Children should never be allowed to play with electrical appliances, and should not be permitted to use hair dryers or space heaters unattended. Also:
- Block outlets with plug covers or outlet caps that screw onto the outlet plate.
- Use plug-in caps that match the outlet’s color, and are not big enough to choke on.
- Ensure a night light cannot be mistaken for a child’s toy
Of all electrical burn injuries, two-thirds involve children at or under age 12. By age three, a child should be taught about electrical safety.
Adults should respect electricity as well. Many people choose DIY projects, but it doesn’t hurt to have a professional electrician check that all electrical codes are being met. Turning off circuit breakers and testing circuits to ensure they’re off, helps before doing any rewiring. Outdoor work can lead to an unanticipated encounter with overhead and underground lines. Therefore, it’s important to consult with an electrical contractor or have a professional perform any electrical installations or repairs.