Science What It's Like to Be Electrocuted (In Your Home)  

Laura Allan
701.2k views 14 items

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

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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

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Photo: bre pettis/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

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

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Photo:  Bre Pettis/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

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

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Photo:  Bre Pettis/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

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.