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Published on June 01, 2018

Electric Shock Drowning: Summer's Silent Danger

Taking a dip in a swimming pool or area lake is a popular way to keep cool during summer. Most people make water safety a priority, yet there’s one danger they don’t often think about: electric shock drowning.

It’s a rare, but potentially fatal danger that lurks silently in water. Electric shock drowning happens when an electrical current, usually from short circuit wiring of a dock, boat, pump or pool light, spreads through the water. The current shocks nearby swimmers, paralyzing them.

"Electric shock drowning can happen in any fresh body of water, such as a pool or lake,” Shelley H. Bridgford, MD, explained. “If it’s a low-level current, you might feel a slight tingling. If the current level is high enough, you could experience paralysis and cardiac arrest, which can result in drowning.”

Risk at the lake and in the pool

Emergency Moves

If someone is struggling in the water, our first instinct is to jump in and save them,” Dr. Bridgford said. “That’s the worst thing you can do because you put yourself in danger of being shocked and increase the risk to the person in the water.”

If you’re in the water and experience electric shock symptoms:

  • Get out of the water quickly, if you can.
  • Turn around, and swim back the way you came.
  • Warn other swimmers in the area.

If you’re on land and see someone who may be experiencing shock in the water:

  • Turn off all nearby power sources.
  • Use a carbon fiber rod to grab the swimmer.
  • Call 911.
  • Perform CPR until help arrives

Our Family & Friends® CPR class teaches lifesaving skills. It’s perfect for parents, grandparents, babysitters and community groups.

Register for a session.