Injuries and fatalities resulting from electric shocks have significantly decreased due to improvements in safety culture and safety requirements.
Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) treats approximately 1–5 electric shock patients in intensive care each year. Severe injuries are usually associated with high-voltage accidents and often require intensive care.
"In Finland, there are on average 2–3 electric shock-related deaths annually, with a significant portion occurring when a young person climbs on top of a train. These young deaths due to high-voltage electric arcs are particularly tragic because they could have been avoided through awareness of the dangers," says Dr. Janne Alakare, Chief Physician at HUS Acute Care.
Electric shock incidents in domestic settings can be life-threatening at the moment of exposure, but severe injuries are rare. Typically, these incidents involve contact with live household current, often without the need for a doctor's visit.
According to new guidelines, an asymptomatic patient who has survived an electric shock without skin burns and whose electrocardiogram (ECG) is normal can be discharged without monitoring or laboratory tests.
"We have found that there is no medical justification for keeping patients who have survived a low-voltage electric shock under monitor surveillance. In the past, patients were often monitored to watch for delayed problems. Based on international data, there is no reason for this in cases of electric current at or below household voltage. The updated practice streamlines healthcare operations and is in the best interest of patients," explains Dr. Alakare.
Relatively few patients seek treatment for electric shock injuries. In 2021 and 2022, Helsinki University Hospital's emergency departments recorded electric shocks as the primary diagnosis for a total of 450 patients. Only 1.3% of these patients required further hospitalization.
Seek Help by Phone First
Before rushing to the emergency department, it is advisable to call the Emergency Services helpline at toll-free number 116117. There, nurses can assess the need for medical attention, guide you to the appropriate healthcare facility, or provide self-care instructions.
If the incident involves a high-voltage injury, loss of consciousness, lightning strike, burns, chest pain, dizziness, or discomfort, dial 112 immediately.
For adults with momentary contact with household electrical current resulting in dry skin and no loss of consciousness, there is no need to contact healthcare professionals unless there are clear symptoms or skin damage associated with the incident.