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Learn Exactly How an Electric Shock Affects the Human Body

How an Electric Shock Affects the Human Body
An electric shock can have varied effects on the human body, quite a few of which result in death. Let us see exactly how an electric shock affects the human body.
Dhanashree Patane
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Electric eels can generate an electric current of up to 600 volts! This helps them stun their prey and keep predators at bay.
Most of us have experienced an electric shock sometime in our life. Well, it may have been a small tingling sensation of electric current that snaps you off the appliance or electric gadget. While this may not be a grave issue and reason to worry, there still are many people who have suffered hazardous electric shocks. Some have lived to tell their story, while others have succumbed to the effect that electric current had on their body.

In this article, we will discuss exactly what happens from the moment the human body gets in contact with an electric current, and how it affects the body. There are many factors that need to be considered when trying to understand this. We have enlisted the effects below.
Factors Determining the Effect of an Electric Shock
The human body may experience an electric shock with any contact to a source of electric current. With contact, there are two major possibilities, one is cardiac complications, and the other is burns. There are basically three main factors that determine the effect that an electric shock has on the body.
Amount of electric current that flows through the body.
The amount of electric current flowing in the body, measured in amperes, is a major factor in decoding how the shock will affect the victim. Currents more than 1mA are generally recognized by the human body. From here up to 10mA, the body has a threshold for pain. Anything above this is more than this threshold. The higher the intensity, more intense is the damage.
Time duration that the body is exposed to electric current
We generally have the perception that higher voltage results in more damage. It is also discussed above and it stands true. But another factor that determines the level of damage is the length of time the body is exposed to the circuit. A low voltage shock can be equally fatal if, the time duration of the body in contact with the electric circuit is high.
The part of body exposed to the current, or the path of current in the body
The effect of a shock largely varies with the path that it travels in the body. The human body has varied resistance for each component. So depending upon which part of the body first makes contact with the current, the effect will vary.
The human body acts like an electrolytes solution in a leather container. The density of current will be higher along the axis between the two points of contact. So, organs lying in the path of the current axis are more likely to be affected first.

If the current strikes outside the skin first, the damages may be considerably less, as the current path is outside the skin. If the path were to be the human hand to hand or leg, in that case, the electric current would directly pass through the path of the heart, which is an internal path, and the result could be lethal.

Low levels of current may also cause involuntary contraction of the muscles. This may lead the victim to be pushed away from the circuit. The victim may fall from an elevation, leading to extreme injuries or even death. So, in this case, he will not die of electrocution, but due to the fall.
External factors affecting the human body
If the body is wet during contact with the circuit, the time taken for severe damage to occur is less, as wet skin instantly lowers the body's resistance to an electric shock. Dry skin, comparatively, has a higher threshold and resistance to current. Similarly, damp and wet conditions, like the presence of moisture at the location of the current also plays a big part.

The phase of the heart function during the time of the shock also defines the effect and damage that the current can cause. The systolic phase of the heart is when the heart contracts and blood is pumped into the arteries. During the reset portion of this phase, the chances of fibrillation are dramatically high, compared to the other phases of the heart functioning.
Body Resistance
Once an electric current strikes the body, it damages a layer of skin. This reduces the resistance of the body and increases current flow. This is widely demonstrated in Ohm's Law, which states that the relationship between current and voltage is a potential conductor.

Electric current=Voltage/Resistance
How Electric Current Affects the Human Body
So, now we know what factors can make a difference in the effect of current on the body. We now move on to the various physiological effects of an electric shock with an alternating current (AC). Death is a possibility in three ways - the breathing center in the brain is paralyzed, ventricular fibrillation, and paralysis of the heart.
0.2 - 2mA
Slight tingling sensation.

Faint shock, most individuals let go at this stage. However, an involuntary reaction may cause injury.
6mA - 16 mA
Onset of painful shock, losing muscle control. May lead to muscle contractions, freezing, and lengthen the time of the body in circuit. It is also known as 'let-go range or freezing current'. Muscle contraction may also cause the victim to get stuck with the circuit. He will not be able to free himself from the current because of sudden muscle contraction. So, in such cases, even a low voltage circuit can be hazardous, as the time duration of electric current exposure will be relatively high.
30mA - 99mA
Respiratory paralysis, extreme pain and muscle contraction near the source of contact. The individual cannot let go, which can be fatal. He may also be thrown off the source current leading to further injuries. Possibility of death.
100mA - 2,000mA
Ventricular fibrillation. This is a type of arrhythmia. In this condition of the heart, the bundle of muscles in the heart respond erratically. It causes rapid, uncontrolled, and untimely twitching of these muscles. This stops the functioning of the heart as a pump. Death is likely to happen.
2,000mA and above
Severe burning of tissues and organs, cardiac arrest, leading to probable death.
These were some of the most likely effects that electric current may have on a human body. They may vary with many conditions. The above is an approximate view of the effect of current on the body. The victims of electric shocks, in most cases, either completely recover or succumb. Very few victims have shown aftereffects, though may be permanent in rare cases.