Electricity-related accidents sent more than 6,000 children to hospital Ers in 1997. Kids under 5 who either chewed on electrical cords or played with wall sockets accounted for 70 percent of these injuries. If your toddler touches a household current, he'll likely pull his hand away in time to prevent serious harm. But if he grabs an electrical appliance while standing in water or bites through an electrical cord, the 110-volt current that runs through most households can pass through his blood and nerves, knock him unconscious, and even stop his heart. Here's lifesaving advice you must know.
All electrical injuries must be examined by a doctor. If your toddler pokes a fork into a wall socket, call your pediatrician, even if your child looks fine. If she bites through an electrical cord, however, take her to the ER right away. The initial burn may not be apparent, but she may have sustained serious internal injuries, symptoms of which can develop over the next eight hours.
If an electric shock knocks your child unconscious, follow these steps:
Turn off the power source. Pull the plug, or switch off the electricity at the fuse box or circuit breaker. In the rare case that this isn't possible, separate your child from the current with a dry, nonconductive object, such as a wooden or plastic broomstick.
Have someone call 911 (or your local emergency number). If you're alone, perform the following lifesaving measures for one minute before calling for help.
Check your child's breathing and pulse. If your child has a pulse but isn't breathing, perform rescue breathing: Tilt her chin up to open her airway. Give an infant two quick puffs, covering her mouth and nose with your mouth. For a child over 1, pinch her nose and give two breaths, sealing your mouth over hers. Continue -- one breath every three seconds for children up to age 8, one breath every five seconds for kids 8 and older -- until breathing is restored or medical help arrives.
If you don't feel a pulse at all, perform CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. (It's best to learn these moves in a CPR class ahead of time.) Infants: Place the tips of your third and fourth fingers just below the line between the nipples. Push down ? to 1 inch. Give one breath after every 5 compressions. 1- to 8-year-olds: Use the heel of your hand to push down the center of your child's chest about 1 to 1? inches. Give one breath after every 5 compressions. 8 years and older: Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest between the nipples. Place your other hand on top of it, interlocking your fingers. Keeping your arms straight, push down 1? to 2 inches. Give two breaths after every 15 compressions.
Check for burns once your child resumes breathing. Apply cool, wet cloths to first- or second-degree burns (look for blisters, redness, and swelling) and elevate the affected areas as you wait for medical help. Do not touch more serious burns (leathery skin that may look gray or black and charred).
Even if your child is only slightly injured, monitor his condition until you can get to a doctor. After the body suffers a trauma, it may go into shock, preventing the vital organs from receiving enough blood. Watch for restlessness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and skin that is pale, cold, or clammy. Elevate your injured child's feet 8 to 10 inches and cover him with a blanket to stop the progression of or treat shock.