Why milk shouldn’t be given to victims of electrocution

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Public health experts have warned against the practice of rushing to give milk to victims of electric shock as a form of first aid treatment, stressing that it is ineffective and can lead to aspiration.

The physicians also said hitting electrocuted persons with sticks is an improper way to separate them from an electric source, saying such a crude act could result in grievous bodily injuries.

Instead, they advised that efforts be made to safely remove the victim from the source of electricity by locating and switching off the source and seeking professional medical assistance.

Also mentioned was the common practice of pouring water to revive electrocuted, unconscious persons, warning that a wet surface or object is incompatible with electric injuries.

Although electric shock incidences are underreported in the country, there have been several cases of electrocution leading to death.

On March 6, a 16-year-old identified as Meshack Agaba, died of electrocution in the premises of the Government Science Secondary School in Abuja.

The According reported that Agaba was fetching water when he unknowingly stepped on an electric cable that had fallen off an electric pole inside the compound.

Also, on March 3, a viral video shared on WhatsApp showed several electric poles in an area in Cross River State, exploding, leading to the electrocution of two males.

According to a media report, officials of the Nigeria Electricity Management Service Agency and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company confirmed the incident, blaming it on the old and unmaintained power lines.

In 2017, The According reported that 51 people died of electrocution between January to May 2017.

According to a health information site, eMedicinehealth, an electric shock occurs when a person comes in contact with an electrical energy source which flows through a portion of the body and causes shock.

It warned that children, teenagers and adults are at risk of electric shock at home, school or work.

Previous news reports showed that electrocution incidents are common in areas with faulty electrical connections, among cable thieves and electricians.

It can also happen accidentally or when approaching areas with high electrical voltage with improper personal protective equipment.

In separate interviews with According Healthwise, the physicians decried the insufficient understanding of first aid and resuscitation techniques for accident victims.

A public health expert, Dr Tuyi Mebawondu, said using milk to revive electrocuted persons could cause further harm and is not the first aid needed by the individual.

He added that administering milk could cause indigestion or aspiration to the victim, calling for a stop to the practice.

The physician advised that when a person has been electrocuted, the first thing is to locate and turn off the electric source, and conduct a proper assessment of the area and victim before administering first aid.

He also asserted that electrocuted persons could suffer seizures, burns, headaches and fractures, calling for vigilance and an assessment of the body for injuries.

Mebawondu added, “When electricity goes through the person, it causes seizure, burns, irregular heartbeat, headache, muscle spasms, numbness or tingling. After electrocution, the person becomes unconscious. Depending on the extent of the electrocution and the quantity of current that passes through the body and the organ it passes through, the person can drop from a height or be thrown into a distance. When that happens, the challenges of broken bones and internal injuries are there.”

He stated that the practice of beating an electrocuted person with a stick to ensure consciousness and moving them from the dangerous scene can cause further harm.

Speaking on what to do should such an emergency occur, the physician advised, “The first thing is to turn off the electric source so that anybody trying to rescue the person doesn’t also get electrocuted. If you are the person experiencing the shock, if you can move away from the source, move away and call for help because electric shock can be minor or major. If you are to help an electrocuted person, you have to ensure to hold something that is not a conductor of electricity.

“After switching off the electric source and moving the person away from the radius of the electric field, access the person. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know of cardiopulmonary resuscitation because if the person is unconscious, the first thing is to commence CPR. But before then, you must ensure that you don’t move the person anyhow, especially if the person is having some seizures, convulsions, or has broken bones and burns.”

The medical practitioner also advised that a victim of electrocution should be kept far from water, and wet surfaces to prevent further electric shock.

He emphasised that the victim should be taken to the hospital for proper assessment and treatment immediately.

Also, a Public Health Specialist and Senior Registrar at the Department of Community Health, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr Oluwaseun Rotimi, described electric shock as a life-threatening event that should be treated as a medical emergency.

He said safely turning off the electricity supply to the immediate environment should be the first thing to be done during an electric shock.

According to him, giving milk to resuscitate an electrocuted person would cause further complications such as aspiration and death.

“If the person is unconscious or has an altered level of consciousness, it is not advisable to give milk because while attempting to give milk, the person can aspirate, that is the milk can go into the airway or stomach. If the person aspirates, that is a fresh complication, which if not well managed can lead to death. If the person needs to be hydrated, it has to be through the vein and must be done in a hospital. Milk as a first aid would do more harm than good,” Rotimi warned.

The public health physician said people living around an electric field should protect themselves and avoid wet substances and electric conductors such as iron and other metals.

Rotimi said, “If you are knowledgeable about CPR and first aid training, it is advisable to start CPR immediately. But before that, it is better to call for help and arrange to take the person to the hospital. Also, protect yourself so you don’t get electrocuted by the person. Immediately help comes, the person must be taken to a health facility.”

He underscored the importance of prioritising first aid training and stressed the need for individuals to acquire this knowledge.

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