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Electrical Burn in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What are electrical burns?

Electrical burns are injuries that are caused by an electric current. The electric current can pass through your child's body and damage tissues or organs. An electric current may also jump from an electrical source to your child and burn his or her body.

What causes electrical burns?

Electrical burns are caused by touching an electrical current that comes from a source of electricity. Sources of electricity include batteries, household appliances, electrical outlets, and power lines. Lightning can also cause electrical burns.

What are the signs and symptoms of electrical burns?

Your child's signs and symptoms will depend on where and how badly he or she is burned. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Burns or other injuries on his or her skin
  • Fast or abnormal heartbeat
  • Weakness, stiffness, or muscle pain
  • Red or reddish black urine
  • Problems moving or keeping his or her balance
  • Headache, dizziness, or problems with his or her memory
  • Trouble thinking or staying awake
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling, bleeding, or damage in his or her mouth

How are electrical burns diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask how your child was burned and examine him or her. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests may show inflammation or damage to your child's muscles, heart, and other organs.
  • An EKG test records your child's heart rhythm and how fast his or her heart beats. It is used to check for heart damage.
  • A CT or MRI may show damage to your child's head or other body parts. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell a healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.
  • Scintigraphy is a procedure that may show dead tissue in your child's body and decide how much needs to be removed.

How are electrical burns treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Ointments may be placed on your child's burn area or be part of the bandage. These medicines prevent infection and help your child's burn heal.
    • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Procedures:
    • Debridement is used to remove damaged tissue from your child's body. This helps prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and improve healing.
    • A skin graft or flap is when lost skin is replaced with healthy skin from another part of your child's body. A graft can help close your child's wounds, prevent infection, and decrease scarring. Skin flap surgery is done to fix large wounds that cannot be covered by skin grafting.
    • Escharotomy is used to relieve pressure caused by swelling and improves blood flow for healing. An incision is made through the dead tissue into the fat layer below.
    • Fasciotomy is used to release pressure that is caused by swollen muscles from the burn. Your child may be less likely to have more damage to your nerves, tissue, or organs.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my child's electrical burns?

  • Use bandages as directed. Bandages will cover your child's burn area to keep it moist and clean. Ask how often you should change your child's bandage. You may clean your child's burn with soap and water.
  • Wear pressure garments if directed. Pressure garments help keep thick scars from forming. Your child may need to wear a garment for most of the day. Pressure garments are custom made to fit your child. Ask for more information about pressure garments.
  • Take your child to physical therapy. Physical therapy will help prevent stiffness and muscle loss, and decrease pain.
  • Massage your child's burn area after it heals. Massage may help prevent thick scars from forming.

How can electrical burns be prevented?

  • Place socket covers on unused plugs. Use safety cords, such as circuit breakers or ground fault interrupters. Cover or fix any exposed wires. Replace damaged electric cords. Never allow your child to touch wires.
  • Watch your child when he or she is playing with electric toys. Turn off and unplug electric toys or machines when not in use. Do not use electric machines near water. Keep electric machines out of your child's reach.

What safety measures can I teach my child?

  • Never touch the following:
    • An electric outlet
    • An electric machine
    • A water heater or a radiator (room heater)
    • Anything during a storm that uses electricity, including computers, phones, or radios

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child suddenly has trouble seeing or hearing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has red or reddish black urine.
  • Your child has a fast heartbeat.
  • Your child has problems walking or keeping his or her balance.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child is dizzy or weak.
  • Your child has stiff joints or muscle pain.
  • Your child is confused or has memory loss.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.