The general principle of treating burns remains to cool and cover the affected area but some types of burn need extra consideration. With burns to the neck and mouth, beyond the risk of shock and infection, the greatest potential problem is the risk of airway obstruction due to swelling. The obvious additional danger with electrical burns is the combination of water as a treatment and electricity as the cause.
TREATING THE BURNS TO THE NECK AND MOUTH
- Check the victim’s airway and breathing and be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.
- Call an ambulance and reassure the victim until help arrives.
- Get the victim into a position where his breathing is comfortable (this will usually be sitting up).
- Loosen any constriction around the neck to ease breathing. Keep the airway clear.
- Cool any burns continuously—do not attempt to cover.
- Maintain a check on the victim’s airway and breathing.
Although rare, lightning strikes do happen and can kill. If caught outside in a thunderstorm, seek shelter in a car or building.
If there is no shelter, make yourself as low as possible, minimize your contact with the ground by crouching and avoid single trees, bodies of water, and tall objects.
If a person has been struck by lightning, check the airway and breathing, be prepared to resuscitate, treat any burns, and call for help.
If a victims has suffered from an electric shock, do not attempt to touch the person unless you are absolutely certain that he or she no longer in contact with the live equipment. If the person is still attached to an electrical current, your best option is to turn the electricity off at the main breaker. If you cannot access the breaker, you may able to turn off electrical equipment at the wall socket but be particularly careful that you do not touch the victim or any live equipment.
If there is no way to turn the electricity off, you can attempt to move the victim away from the point of contact using a non-conducting material such as a broom handle. Be sure to insulate yourself as much as possible by wearing rubber gloves and shoes, and by standing on a telephone directory.
Electricity demands respect—if in doubt, call in professional help. Do not push yourself in any danger.
TREATING ELECTRICAL BURNS
A victim suffering from an electrical burn may well have respiratory or circulatory difficulties. An electrical discharge across the heart can make the heart stop beating, so be prepared to resuscitate the victim over and above the treatment of any burn that may be present.
- Make absolutely sure that there is no further risk from the electricity.
- Check to see whether the victim is conscious, if unconscious, check airway and breathing and take action as appropriate.
- Treat any burns with cold water if safe to do so.
- Cover burns as appropriate with sterile, non-fluffy dressings.
- Seek urgent medical attention. Stay with the victim and reassure him until medical help arrives.
High-voltage electricity (power lines, subway tracks, overhead power cables, etc.)
Usually kills immediately, causing severe burns, heart problems, and potentially even broken bones and internal injuries as the victim is thrown by the shock. If somebody has been hit, your first priority is to keep yourself and the other bystander safe. High-voltage currents can jump some distance so keep people back at least 60 feet and call for professional help via 911.