What Happens When Body Gets Electrocuted?

Electrocution COVER

Are you missing the spark in your life? Well, electrocution might be the answer (but in all seriousness, it’s not). We have all seen it in movies and shows multiple times that once a person is given an electric shock their body shakes uncontrollably, they shout and that’s pretty much it followed by death. However, a realistic scenario is where we try to plug in a chord in a power outlet we get a minor shock and we just brush it off. But what exactly happens to our bodies upon receiving a shock?

What is an Electric shock?

An electric shock happens when we come in contact with an open circuit of electric current, which then flows through our body, and depending on the severity of the shock, it can cause serious damage and even death. As our bodies are about 60% water, it acts as a natural conductor for electricity.

Electric shock effects

Person unconscious after electrocution.

Effects of electrocution on our body

Note that it’s the direct current, that moves in one direction that is our main concern here. While alternating current can cause damage as well but large units of it are required to do so. Electricity is usually measured in volts (V) and our household receive anywhere from 110V to 250V. Interestingly, electric shocks that we receive are measured in milliamperes (mA). To put that into perspective 1 volt is equal to 1,000 mA and the threshold to sense the shock is only 1mA. Below are the effects that’ll occur upon electrocution of varying degrees.

  • 0.5-1mA of direct current: This one is harmless to adults, however, infants may experience a painful shock even at low units. Adults may or may not sense a tingling sensation at the point of contact which usually fades away after 5-10 minutes.
  • 1-6mA of direct current: At this capacity of current, one may feel painful shock at the point of contact which can continue to cause pain for 30-40 minutes. Usually, this is the let-go threshold for children and even some adults.
  • 6-12mA of direct current: This is the limit of adults being electrocuted without any significant issue. Although an intense and painful shock can be felt at this level, the person’s conscious decision-making is intact and one can let go of the contact point. Muscles are contracted on the higher end of this range and if the contact point isn’t let off in the initial stages, individuals tend to lose control of that muscle group for some time. In most cases, no serious damage is noticed yet in rare cases muscles can be damaged.
  • 12-25mA of direct current: This is where things turn serious. In the spectrum over 15mA, seizures may or may not happen at the contact point depending on the individual but damage to muscle can surely occur. Here twitching and involuntarily actions occur, one can even become unconscious at this point if the constant current is experienced for a longer period of duration.
  • 20-50mA of direct current: On the lower end of this current range, people are unable to let go of the contact point on their own which may result in a prolonged period of electrocution. Whereas, anything over 30mA is definitely going to cause seizures, and moving up from there one experiences trouble in breathing and extreme pain. If this capacity of current flew through the heart it can cause major issues. As the heartbeat is controlled by electrical impulses, shock alters the rhythm of blood pumping and can result in ventricular fibrillation, a medical condition in which due to disorganized pumping rhythm, the heart fails to pump blood to the body.
  • 50-100mA of direct current: With this magnitude of electricity flowing through the body, burns occur with all the effects mentioned previously. However, above 50mA, ventricular fibrillation occurs no matter the path of the current. Burns are apparent and even if no external burns are observed, chances are small craters are left on the body which indicates internal burns, which is extremely serious. Tissue damage can occur which may or may not be reversible.
  • 100mA-200mA of direct current: Followed by extreme shock, pain, inability to breathe, and muscle spasms, both internal and external burns are evident within 5 seconds of contact. Followed by damage to the nervous system and nerves that are long-term, also death is probable here. An affected person can develop psychiatric disorders along with amnesia and losing control of the limbs. Depending on the severity of the electrocution, these may be permanent.
  • Above 200mA of direct current: Anything above 200mA is considered lethal and death is certain at this stage within 10 seconds of the shock. If somehow one is freed miraculously from the electrocution, the severity of the damage will likely carry over for a couple of years or even throughout the rest of the life. Brain functions hindrance is absolute, along with fourth-degree burns both external and internal. A person will require serious medical attention for a prolonged period of time and most likely new organs.

Ways to avoid electrocution


  • Make sure you are not using anything electrical with wet hands. Plus, ensure that no moisture gets to the appliances as sometimes they continue to function but they become conductors for the electricity and can electrocute you.
  • Always make sure you are either wearing rubber footwear or carrying a wooden stick while dealing with faulty appliances. As both rubber and wood will prevent you from being electrocuted.
  • Usually, wiring is only looked at if a new house is being built or is being renovated. This can be damaging in the longer run, as defective wires can seep current into the outlets and non-insulated areas.

Firstaid for electrocution

  • If you happen to experience an electric shock, let go of all the electrical appliances and avoid movement if possible. Have someone call for medical services.
  • If you encounter someone being electrocuted, don’t touch them as the current will pass to you as well. Instead, cut the source of electricity, if not possible make sure you are standing on a wooden platform and/or wearing rubber footwear. Then with a wooden stick try to pull them away from the power source and lay them down and don’t move them. Call for emergency services.
  • If you come across post electrocution, stay at least 20 feet away from the person and call the emergency services immediately. As much as you might want to help, touching the person or moving them without proper equipment will cause them more problems.

Electrocution can be a painless shock or even a lethal blow depending on the power output of the current. It is in our hands to make sure we protect ourselves from it, by being cautious and learning more about it.




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