When an electrical current enters the human body, the physical effect is
an “electrical shock.” An electrical shock can range from
a harmless, but unpleasant jolt of electricity after someone has stuck
a knife in a plugged-in toaster or touched a grocery cart on a windy day,
to a lethal jolt of electricity from a power line.
Not all electrical shocks are the same. Some are minor while others are
downright deadly. The effect a shock has on the human body has to do with
the current and how high the voltage is. Interestingly, the human body’s
electrical resistance can vary and can in fact change the passage of an
electrical shock considerably.
This can make it difficult to investigate accidents – the electrical
engineer is interested in the voltage, whereas the physician is interested
in where the current flowed through the victim’s body. Also, important,
is the path that the current takes through the person’s body.
The organs that are usually affected the most are the ones that are close
to the current’s path. Because of this, most electrical fatalities
occur when the current passes between the arm and legs (usually the right
side), and the current flows through the chest and the organs contained
Electrical shock causes death in these ways:
- Paralyzes the breathing center in the brain,
- Paralyzes the heart, or
- Ventricle fibrillation (this involves an uncontrolled, fast twitching of
the heart muscle).
“What is the best way to treat electric shock?” The best emergency
treatment of electrical shock is CPR performed by a highly-trained person.
In many cases, it can offer short-term life support until the individual
can get to a hospital.
“An electrical shock may cause burns, or it may leave no visible
mark on the skin. In either case, an electrical current passing through
the body can cause internal damage, cardiac arrest or other injury. Under
certain circumstances, even a small amount of electricity can be fatal,”
according to the
Safety Tips for Portable Heaters