Electrical Burns and Injuries



These burns and injuries are caused by contact with electric currents. The currents may come from appliances, exposed wiring, or lightning strikes.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk are:

  • Having a job that works with or near electric currents
  • Working outdoors
  • Being outside during thunderstorms
  • Working with electric systems or appliances without proper training



Symptoms depend on how much electricity there was and how long a person was in contact with it.

A person with an electrical burn or injury may have:

  • Severe muscle spasms
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness or lightheadedness
  • Burns on the skin
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Heart pounding or fluttering from heart arrhythmias

Electric shock can also cause the lungs and heart to stop working.


Diagnosis is based on the person's symptoms and what happened to them. A physical exam will be done.

The doctor will look at the skin. Burns will be diagnosed based on how severe they are:

Classification of Skin Burns
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The doctor will want to check for damage under the skin. Tests may include:

  • ECG—to check how the heart is working
  • Urine or blood tests—to check for damage to muscles
  • CT or MRI scans—to look for trauma to the body



The goal of treatment is to repair damage to tissue and organs. Electrical burns and injuries need care right away. Treatment will depend on how bad the injuries are.

Less severe symptoms may only need to be watched. Minor burns can be treated with ointments and dressings.

Severe shocks and injuries need emergency care. This may include:

  • CPR
  • Airway and breathing support
  • IV fluids—to restore any fluids that were lost
  • Pain medicine
  • Antibiotics and ointments
  • Removal of dead tissue
  • Surgery—for deeper burns and to repair some wounds


To reduce the risk of electrical burns and injuries:

  • Use child safety plugs in all outlets.
  • Keep electric cords away from children.
  • Follow safety instructions when using electric appliances.
  • Avoid being out in lightning storms.
  • Follow safety instructions at work.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.