Ever find yourself staring at a socket with a fork in your hand wondering what being electrocuted feels like? Not a small, manageable shock of static electricity, but lightning-level surges coursing through your body. If so, there’s good news and bad news: the good news is, you’re basically roommates with lightning, even though it may not seem that way. So if you’re electrocution-curious, take solace in knowing you can get zapped to sh*t doing everyday tasks. You might even learn what it’s like to be electrocuted by accident while cleaning the kitchen. The bad news is… well, you’re roommates with lighting.
If your great existential quandary is ‘can you die from electrocution?,’ remember electrocution has long been used as a means of execution. So that’s a big fat yes. High voltages of electricity can be extremely deadly to humans, and it’s possible to get jolted in ways you might never expect. Even if you know not to plug in your toaster and throw it in the tub during a bath, you probably haven’t yet come to terms with the myriad ways you can electrocute the tar out of yourself in your own home.
Have a look at how domestic electrocution happens, what happens to your body, and what it would feel like, in graphic detail. Be warned, some of this information may shock you.
It Can Happen in Almost Every Room of the House
Ben Franklin went out of his way to get electrocuted, though as it turns out, he probably didn’t need to stand in a storm flying a kite. The majority of electrocution injuries don’t come from lighting strikes, direct contact with Telsa coils, or even on a raised platform in a mad scientist’s castle. They mostly happen in the workplace, and those that don’t typically happen at home. In fact, if you have electricity in your house, it can happen pretty much anywhere.
If your basement floods, the water can become electrified, turning our subterranean space into a death swamp. If you accidentally jam something into a light socket, it can electrocute you. If an appliance shorts out, it can electrocute you. Many electrocutions around the home occur due to carelessness, or happen to children who don’t know any better.
Current-Induced Silence & Stillness Means Those Nearby Might Not Realize You’re Dying
When you get electrocuted, you will lose motor function and the ability to speak. As your body battles the current, the only signs you may show are shaking, tensing, and silence. These symptoms might signal to those around you that something is terribly wrong, but your family and friends might just assume you’ve had too much coffee.
You may think of victims of electrocution covered in arcs of lightning, or vibrating to the sound of crackling electricity, but it’s not like that outside movies. You’re far more likely to be silent and uncommunicative, which will leave witnesses confused. It’s also worth mentioning that even if someone tries to help you, they should avoid grabbing you or touching you. If they do, they may get electrocuted as well.
The Electrons in Your Body Are Going to Freak Out
Like ice cream from hell, electricity comes in many flavors. Different types of currents have varying impacts on the body. All of them, however, mess with your electrons. You may imagine electricity traveling through the body during a shock like blood circulating, but that’s not the case. In reality, electrocution forces the electrons inside you to move rapidly, creating a rippling current. This current causes all the problems associated with being shocked.
Imagine the initial shock is the first domino being tipped over. It forces the rest of the dominoes (electrons) in your body to fall. As the dominoes topple one another, your body’s systems go haywire trying to deal. So, really, it’s your fault you’re getting shocked. Stupid, fickle electrons.
Your Muscles Betray You
As your electrons respond to the electrical current, the signals in your body get all kinds of mixed up. The electrical impulses in your muscles, for instance, go totally nuts. Electrical impulses tell your muscles when to move, when to tense, and when to relax. When electricity screws with them, they begin to try to do all of those at once.
Sounds fun, right? Your muscles will expand and contract over and over. These spasms are reportedly quite painful. Additionally, you will have no conscious control over your muscles, especially around the source of the shock. This muscular autonomy is one of the main reasons people become immobile and silent upon being electrocuted.
You Will Go Numb (for Longer Than You Think)
Even small electric shocks can have a lasting impact, because your body responds to electricity no matter the amount. Numbness is a common symptom. As electricity enters your body there is only one goal: find its way to the ground. Or, in your home, the floor. It may prefer a hardwood floor to carpeting, lavish marble to cheap linoleum, but any floor will do.
Because electricity is lazy (or really efficient, it can be hard to tell) it will always find the shortest path to the ground. Anything it encounters along the way – a human being, for instance – is impacted. With a large enough shock, numbness will hit more than just the point of contact. You may feel numbness spread over your entire body after the initial pain, and it may take hours to go away completely. Or, you might just die. It’s kind of a dice-roll. Makes you think you should invest in some nice floors. No one wants their last sight to be rat-piss stained shag.
Your Heart Might Skip a Beat or 100
When electricity travels through your human body looking for the floor or some other surface for grounding, the current will move directly through your heart. That’s all sorts of bad news. Your heart is a muscle, and as with other muscles, the movement of electrons causes it to freak out. If you’re lucky, you’ll feel it jump or spasm. If not, you may feel it stop altogether.
Generally, a jump or skipped beat lasts a moment. In cases of prolonged electrocution, however, your heart can stop or pump erratically for as long as the current flows through you. If you’re at work, surrounded by helpful colleagues and a first aide kit, you stand a better chance of getting through this than if you’re home alone, staring at a deer in the backyard when you accidentally put one hand in the sink and the other in a socket.
Your Nerves Will Go Crazy
When you’re electrocuted, your nerves try to compensate, and fail miserably. Nerves talk to your body, telling it “this hurts” or “move this” or “that tickles” or “something is broken.” That’s how you know what you feel and how to respond. Your nerves do this by sending electrical signals to different parts of your body, and that doesn’t work too well when you’re being electrocuted.
Electrocution causes injury, pain, spasms, and, probably, fear. Your nerves know they need to do something, but the electrical current makes it so they don’t know which impulses to send where. That means your body doesn’t know how to respond to the stimuli. You may feel cold, hot, hurt, relaxed or any of a number of inappropriate sensations as your nerves try to deal with the shock.
Your Body Will Try to Resist the Current
Your body will do its best to protect itself from electrocution once the juice starts flowing in search of the ground. Among other things, it will release endorphins to fight the pain, your brain will try to send antibodies to the site of any muscle injury or open wound, and your flesh will resist the electricity.
In a circuit, resistors are often used to control and manipulate the flow of current. They also produce an excess amount of heat. Unfortunately, this is the same reaction that happens in your body. Only instead of copper or brass, it’s muscles and flesh. The heat is so great it can cause severe and lasting damage.
Your Skin Will Burn (and Maybe Your Insides, Too)
You’ve no doubt seen movies in which characters sizzle and smolder after being struck by lightning. The same thing happens when you’re electrocuted in your own home. At the site of the electrocution, your hand may blacken and your skin may split into an open wound. Underneath the surface, your muscles may also burn. While there may be no sign of external injury outside of the contact point, there could be internal burning all over your body. How much would it suck to accidentally incinerate your internal organs by carelessly grabbing an exposed wire while standing in your dog’s water bowl?
If you aren’t lucky enough to go numb, the pain is reportedly excruciating. You may suffer burn scars in the shape of lightning bolts, highlighting your individual muscles and blood vessels. Which actually sounds pretty cool. Probably not worth maybe dying for, but a sweet battle wound none-the-less.
You Will Lose Consciousness
When your brain senses something has gone terribly wrong, but it doesn’t know what, it employs a potent defense mechanism: it shuts down most of your systems, causing you to fall unconscious. In some cases, this can break the flow of electricity into your body and save your life. Way to go, brain!
You can also pass out if your heart stops, if you stop breathing, if your brain is being fried by electricity, or if the sudden pain is so great that your body goes into shock.Needless to say, passing out for any of these reasons is never a good thing. Some biological shut downs can be life threatening if not treated immediately. So many ways to lose touch with the conscious world, and so many ways to fry yourself to hell and back in your house, it’s a wonder people don’t spend their time at home in rubber body suits.
You Can Get Artificial Rigor Mortis
You already know your muscles may tense up when electrocuted. What happens as the shock gets worse? Your muscles can be further damaged, and grow even tenser with the heat and intensity of electrocution.
As you’re shocked, adenosine triphosphate (a chemical in your muscles that produces energy) is burned off and out of your body. When this happen, your muscles stop being pliable and supple. They stiffen. This means that, even if the electrical current in your body is broken, you may still remain stiff afterwards. This stiffness, be it in a limb or throughout your entire body, is a form of artificial rigor mortis. At least you’d be great at “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”
Your Brain Loses Control Over Your Body
Your brain and your nerves communicate through electrical signals. Electrocution can severely disrupt that repartee. When your nerves try to send the brain signals that don’t make sense (or don’t reach it), your body wigs out. Your brain is going to have no idea what’s going on, so it will likely not be able to control the rest of you.
If the electrical current passes through your brain, a place where information is being sent and received through electrical signals, it can cause severe neurological damage. This can be fatal almost instantly, as it can cause your brain to shut itself down. The electricity can also cook your brain, damaging tissue beyond repair.
Electrical resistance is the worst. In other words, try not to get electrocuted. But try really hard not to get electrocuted near your brain. Especially in your home. Image sauntering into the afterlife with that story. You’re at your first cocktail part with someone from Pompeii, a victim of trench warfare, the soul of someone burned at the stake as a heretic and they’re like “So what’s your story?” and you’re like “I fried my brain trying to make poptarts.”
You Might Go Blind
Given all the weirdness happening with your nerve endings and brain, it stands to reason your senses might not work. After all, the things you hear and smell and touch are electrical impulses interpreted by the brain. In many cases, electrocution makes you see white or blurs everything out for a while. Sometimes, terrifyingly, that effect doesn’t go away afterwards.
The nerves that perceive and send signals involving sight can be basically burned out by electricity, so they no longer function. Your eyes themselves can also be damaged by the extreme heat and current in you, making them useless. Some people do recover after being blinded by electric shock, but it’s not common. In one case, a young man electrocuted by a guitar went blind. Gives new meaning to “face-melting.”
You Might Just Die
Electrocution in the home can, and does, cause death. Most of the people killed, sadly, are children. They have a lower tolerance for electricity, and are more likely to accidentally shock themselves. Still, it can happen to adults as well. In some cases, electrocution can cause death almost instantly, as the heart is jolted to a stop or the brain is broken beyond repair.
In other cases, prolonged electrocution painfully kills your body limb by limb and system by system. If you have friends around, and you are no longer a risk to them, they can perform CPR to restart your heart, but this rarely works.
Truth be told, electrocution doesn’t often kills people, but it is possible. So be smart with electricity at home. Prevent children from sticking things into sockets, replace your appliances, and be careful of exposed wires. Your house isn’t always the safest place, and electricity has no mercy. Think of it like constantly going to battle with Raiden from Mortal Kombat only… lamer.