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Electrical Burn In Children


What are electrical burns?

Electrical burns are injuries 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 his body and burn his 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. Lightning can strike your child directly or reach him by traveling through plumbing, wires, or the ground.

What are the signs and symptoms of electrical burns in children?

Your child's signs and symptoms will depend on where and how badly he was burned. Symptoms may occur right away or appear after a few months.

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

How are electrical burns in children diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and when they began. He will ask how your child was burned and examine him. He may ask if your child has any other medical conditions or test his memory. He may ask your child to do certain movements to test his joints. Your child may be given dye before some of the following tests to help the pictures show up better. Tell healthcare providers if your child is allergic to iodine or seafood. He may also be allergic to the dye.

  • Blood and urine tests: Your child may need blood or urine tests to check for damage to his muscles, heart, or other organs.
  • ECG: This is also called an EKG. An ECG is done to check for damage or problems in your child's heart. A short period of electrical activity in his heart is recorded.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray uses a computer to take pictures of your child's brain. The healthcare provider may do this test to check for signs of brain injury.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your child's head or other body parts. An MRI may be used to look at your child's brain, muscles, joints, bones, or blood vessels. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with any metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell healthcare providers if your child has any metal in or on his body.
  • Scintigraphy: Scintigraphy may help your child's healthcare provider find dead tissue in your child's body and decide how much should be removed.
  • Neurologic signs: Healthcare providers test how your child's pupils react to light. They may check his memory and how easily he wakes up. His hand grasp and balance may also be tested. The way your child responds to this test can tell healthcare providers if his injury has affected his brain.

How are electrical burns in children treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Ointments: These medicines prevent infection and help your child's burn heal. The ointment may be placed on your child's skin, or it may be part of his bandage.
    • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell healthcare providers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.
    • Tetanus shot: This is medicine to keep your child from getting tetanus (lock jaw). Your child should have a tetanus shot if he has not had one in the past 5 to 10 years. Your child's arm can get red, swollen, and sore after getting this shot. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information about protection against tetanus.
  • Surgery:
    • Debridement: Healthcare providers remove damaged tissue from your child's body to prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and improve healing.
    • Skin grafts and flaps: Healthcare providers cover or replace lost skin with healthy skin. 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 closed by skin grafting. A skin flap is skin and tissue that is stretched to cover the wound area. Skin flaps may improve the appearance of your child's skin.
    • Escharotomy: Healthcare providers make an incision through the dead tissue into the fat layer below. This surgery helps relieve pressure caused by swelling and improves blood flow.
    • Fasciotomy: Healthcare providers release pressure caused by swollen muscles from the burn and prevent more damage to your child's nerves, organs, or tissues.

What other types of therapy may my child need?

  • Pressure garments: 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 your child's healthcare provider for more information about pressure garments.
  • Wound care: Your child's burn will be covered with a bandage to keep it moist and clean. You may clean the burn with soap and water. Ask how often you should clean your child's wound and change his bandage.
  • Physical therapy: Your child's muscles and joints may not work well after an electrical burn. He may need to see a physical therapist to teach him exercises that will improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your child's risk for loss of function. Your child may need to wear splints or casts to help prevent his muscles from shrinking. This may help prevent his joints and bones from becoming deformed.
  • Massage therapy: A massage therapist may help your child feel less pain. Massage therapy may also help prevent thick scars from forming.
  • Speech therapy: A speech therapist may work with your child to help him talk if he has had an electrical burn in his mouth.

What are the risks of electrical burns in children?

Bandage changes may be painful. Surgery to remove dead tissue may cause infection and put your child at risk of bleeding. Your child's scars may itch or become thick and raised. If your child had a skin graft, the wound may not heal completely, or it may become infected. Without treatment, your child's burned skin may become infected, and he may have increased pain.

How can electrical burns in children be prevented?

  • Put socket covers on all unused electric outlet plugs in your home.
  • Never allow your child to touch, bite, or suck on wires.
  • Cover or fix wires that are exposed. Replace damaged electric cords. Do not use extension cords.
  • Use safety cords, such as circuit breakers or ground fault interrupters.
  • Keep electric machines out of your child's reach.
  • Turn off and unplug electric machines when not in use. Do not use electric machines near water.
  • Supervise your child when he is playing with electric toys.
  • Do not allow your child to play with an electric toy that does not have an Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety label. Do not allow your child to play with damaged electric toys.

What safety measures can I teach my child?

  • Never touch or put anything inside of an electric outlet.
  • Never touch an electric machine without your permission.
  • Never touch a water heater or a radiator (room heater).
  • Never touch anything during a storm that uses electricity, including computers, telephones, and radios.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child is dizzy or weak.
  • Your child has problems moving or keeping his balance.
  • Your child has stiff joints or muscle pain.
  • Your child has swelling, bleeding, or damage in his mouth.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child has trouble thinking or staying awake.
  • Your child fainted.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child suddenly has trouble seeing or hearing.
  • Your child has red or reddish black urine.

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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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