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Electrical Burns in Adults

AMBULATORY CARE:

Electrical burns

are injuries that are caused by an electric current. The electric current can pass through your body and damage tissues or organs. An electric current may also jump from an electrical source to you and burn your body.

Common symptoms include the following:

Your signs and symptoms will depend on where and how badly you are burned. You may have any of the following:

  • Burns or other wounds on your skin
  • Headache, dizziness, confusion, or memory loss
  • Fast or abnormal heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness, stiffness, or muscle pain
  • Problems walking or keeping your balance
  • Red or reddish black urine
  • Pain throughout your body
  • Seizures

Call, or have someone call, your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You suddenly have trouble seeing or hearing.
  • You have shortness of breath.

Seek immediate care if:

  • You have red or reddish black urine.
  • You have a fast heartbeat.
  • You have problems walking or keeping your balance.

Call your doctor if:

  • You are dizzy or weak.
  • You have stiff joints or muscle pain.
  • You are confused or have memory loss.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for electrical burns

may include any of the following:

  • Medicines:
    • Ointments may be placed on your burn area or be part of your bandage. These medicines prevent infection and help your burn heal.
    • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
    • 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 you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
    • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Procedures:
    • Debridement is used to remove damaged tissue from your body. This helps prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and improve your healing.
    • A skin graft or flap is when lost skin is replaced with health skin from another part of your body. A graft can help close your 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. You may be less likely to have more damage to your nerves, tissue, or organs.

Manage your electrical burn:

  • Use bandages as directed. Bandages will cover your burn area to keep it moist and clean. Ask how often you should change your bandage. You may clean your burn with soap and water.
  • Go to physical therapy. Physical therapy will help prevent stiffness and muscle loss, and decrease pain.

Prevent an electrical burn:

  • Place socket covers on unused plugs. Use safety cords, such as circuit breakers or ground fault interrupters.
  • Wear protective clothing if you work with electricity.
  • Check electrical equipment to make sure it is running properly.

Follow up with your doctor or burn specialist as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked and your bandage changed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Electrical Burns in Adults (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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