Any state of shock is a condition in which blood pressure suddenly drops, depriving the body’s vital organs of oxygen. The human body being a good conductor of electricity, coming in contact with any live wire or power source can interfere with the heart’s electrical system, thereby causing significant burns. Almost all of us have experienced minor electric shocks within our household at some stage of life and it is no cause for worry. But, if you happen to locate your little inquisitive toddler exploring plug points and sockets with a loose connection or a live wire hanging out of one of them, it can literally shock the life out of you. It is a hard fact that most fatal electric shocks take place within the four walls of the house. However, you should be well informed about the steps and instructions that should be kept in mind if you ever happen to face and handle a situation like this. Here are some first aid tips which one should follow while dealing with a casualty who is in an electric shock state.
Detach the casualty from the electric flow
If you notice a person stuck to a source of electricity right in front of your eyes, the first and foremost thing to do is to make sure all power sources are isolated before you get down to treating the casualty. Get the main power supply turned off or simply pull out the fuse as many a times just turning off the switch may not stop the flow of electricity. In some circumstances, it may be more convenient and quick to simply pull the victim away from the source of electricity. However, before jumping in to do this, first judge whether the current is from a power source that generates high voltage electricity or from one that is emitting low voltage current. The former has the capacity to travel and arc over to 18 m of distance, so do not approach the source if that is the case. Stay at least 25 m away and wait until the mains have been switched off by an official agency.
On the contrary, if the electricity is from a low voltage source remove any hanging cables or power tools which might still be in contact with the victim while the power source is being turned off. Remember to isolate yourself from the ground by placing a book, newspaper or rubber mat, or any other object which is non-conductivity material. Do not come in contact with the casualty with bare hands as you might also get stuck with him. You can throw a blanket, rolled newspaper or a wooden broom to detach the victim from the socket or live wire. Also make sure that you are not standing on anything wet. Your focus should be to separate the person from the electric source but in a smart manner, so as not to harm yourself in the process.
Try to assess the levels of response of the affected person as this would ascertain his optimum chances of survival. A rapid assessment from your end can enable access to immediate and effective treatment to the victim. It will even provide room for accurate information to be passed on to the ambulance service. To check the response of the casualty, call out his name into both ears and ask him to try opening his eyes. If this does not seem to work, pinch his earlobe or tap his shoulders gently. Check his breathing if he becomes unconscious. Keep his head a little lowered than the rest of the body and raise his legs slightly. You can even cover him with a blanket. Do not try moving him as he may have suffered injuries to his neck and spine. Consider transferring the victim elsewhere only when you are sure that the situation around is under control.
Shout for assistance
If you are all alone at the venue where the incident has taken place, shout and call out for help. Once someone responds to your call, request him to be there while you check the affected person’s airway and breathing. One of you should stay with the casualty while the other one should call the emergency medical services number to get the victim transferred immediately to a hospital. Remember to get isolation or cordoning off done to the exposed, damaged or faulty electrical source before leaving the venue, so as to prevent any further accidents from taking place
Open airway of the casualty
Despite all efforts, if the victim does not respond, open the airway by lifting the chin and tilting his head back. This will assist in freeing the tongue from the back of the throat. If you suspect a neck and spine injury, place one hand on the stomach to feel if it is rising and falling as this will indicate whether the victim is breathing normally or not. You can even try to listen to the sounds of breathing or feel the exhaled air on your cheeks to confirm this. If the casualty reports normal breathing symptoms, then you can turn him to the recovery posture, but if he is not breathing normally, it is an alarming call and you would have to commence with full Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation.
Breathing and circulation
Begin with Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation immediately by compressing the chest of the victim, alternating it with blowing air into his mouth to open the airway. Carry on with the procedure of Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation until the casualty shows signs of recovery and improvement. Wait until the emergency services have arrived to take over the situation. However, you can take rest in between if you feel completely washed out and are unable to continue further with it. Breathing and circulation techniques can ensure keeping risks, of the victim from collapsing, at bay.
When a casualty is unconscious, but is breathing at a normal pace, turn him into the recovery position. This allows the head to be placed tilted back and down and aids in stopping the tongue from blocking the airway, thereby enabling any vomit and fluid to drain from the mouth. However, if the victim is breathing normally, check for any other obvious injuries. Make sure to empty out any sharp articles from the pockets and turn the casualty into the recovery position.
Place the nearest arm at 90 degree position to the body, bring the other arm across the chest and place the back of the hand across the cheek. Keep this here whilst you raise the furthest leg by grasping the top of the knee. Slowly pull on the knee so that the casualty turns over onto the side facing towards you. It will ensure that the casualty is fully rolled over and stable. Re-check the airway, breathing and circulation by drawing up the leg at a 90 degree angle. Check for continued breathing. Even after the victim is breathing smoothly, send someone to call the emergency services.
An exposure to electric current can cause severe burns to the skin and internal organs of the affected person. Under such circumstances, the current can enter into the body via one of the hands and leave through the feet, thereby causing burns at entry and exit points. However, the treatment procedure varies if the victim is conscious and is different if he is unconscious and breathing.
In the former case, if the casualty is conscious, simply cool off the effected area by placing under cold water for a minimum of 10 minutes. On the contrary, if the victim is unconscious, cool the burnt area by using wet dressings after placing the casualty in the recovery position. Be very cautious and do not, by any chance, let the blisters burst, avoid applying adhesive dressings, do not remove damaged skin or apply any ointments or creams. The burnt region should never be covered with excessively stuffed dressings, or affixed tightly. The best is to remove the clothing from the burned area, unless it’s stuck to the skin, but never apply ice which is commonly done by most people. Call for emergency medical attention as soon as possible.
Handling other injuries due to an electric shock
A serious electricity shock can result in causing complications like a muscle spasm or seizures. These may be present for some time after an electricity shock and indicate a seriously ill victim. In the event of a major seizure the casualty will probably collapse. Try to control the event by ensuring the safety of the casualty. Remove any objects that may cause injury if they are struck. Place padding under the head of the casualty. Improvise by using clothing if required. Never place anything in the casualty’s mouth. Loosen any clothing that may restrict the airway. However, when the seizure has subsided check the casualty’s Airway, Breathing and Circulation, the ABC of making the victim feel fit and fine. If he is in a state of unconsciousness and breathing normally, or partly conscious, place the casualty in the recovery position and begin to perform CPR if the victim is not breathing. You can also put a blanket over the casualty while you time the seizure as well. Also, reassure the casualty whilst continuing to monitor the ABC and any other injuries thereby.
Treating a person with no apparent injury
If the victim has not incurred any injuries and appears hail and hearty, it is still advisable to take the casualty to a hospital or medical facility for a check up, as certain internal organs and systems within his body may have got affected by staying in a state of shock for several hours. Remember, for a victim, a smart and sensible move from your end can save a person’s life, or else push him into further problems, thereby making him succumb to his injuries.