Electric shock is the physiological reaction or injury caused by electric current passing through the (human) body.Typically, the expression is used to describe an injurious exposure to electricity. It occurs upon contact of a (human) body part with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles, or hair.
Very small currents can be imperceptible. Larger current passing through the body may make it impossible for a shock victim to let go of an energized object. Still larger currents can cause fibrillation of the heart and damage to tissues. Death caused by an electric shock is called electrocution.
An electrical injury has many consequences to a body as the electrical currents can travel through the nervous system and burn out tissue in patches along the way. This can leave bizarre symptoms anywhere on the body and may lead to complex regional pain syndrome. Wiring or other metalwork which is at a hazardous voltage which can constitute a risk of electric shock is called "live", as in "live wire".
Shocks can be caused by direct or indirect contact. Contact with an exposed conductive part under fault conditions is called indirect contact. IEC requires certain degrees of ingress protection against direct contact. Indirect contact protections can be achieved by earthed equipotential bonding and automatic disconnection of supply by using Residual Current Devices for example.
The minimum current a human can feel depends on the current type (AC or DC) as well as frequency for AC. A person can feel at least 1 mA (rms) of AC at 60 Hz, while at least 5 mA for DC. At around 10 milliamperes, AC current passing through the arm of a 68-kilogram (150 lb) human can cause powerful muscle contractions; the victim is unable to voluntarily control muscles and cannot release an electrified object. This is known as the "let go threshold" and is a criterion for shock hazard in electrical regulations.
The current may, if it is high enough and is delivered at sufficient voltage, cause tissue damage or fibrillation which can cause cardiac arrest; more than 30 mA of AC (rms, 60 Hz) or 300 – 500 mA of DC at high voltage can cause fibrillation.A sustained electric shock from AC at 120 V, 60 Hz is an especially dangerous source ofventricular fibrillation because it usually exceeds the let-go threshold, while not delivering enough initial energy to propel the person away from the source. However, the potential seriousness of the shock depends on paths through the body that the currents take. If the voltage is less than 200 V, then the human skin, more precisely the stratum corneum, is the main contributor to the impedance of the body in the case of a macroshock—the passing of current between two contact points on the skin. The characteristics of the skin are non-linear however. If the voltage is above 450–600 V, then dielectric breakdown of the skin occurs.The protection offered by the skin is lowered by perspiration, and this is accelerated if electricity causes muscles to contract above the let-go threshold for a sustained period of time.
If an electrical circuit is established by electrodes introduced in the body, bypassing the skin, then the potential for lethality is much higher if a circuit through the heart is established. This is known as a microshock. Currents of only 10 µA can be sufficient to cause fibrillation in this case.