How potentially dangerous is a shock from DC 5.9V 1000mA (baby camera)?
November 4, 2016 5:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm waiting on a call back from the doctor, but am just trying to understand the magnitude of this potential shock. Minor or major?

My baby got his hands on the baby camera and suddenly started crying. I worry that he may have gotten shocked by it, but I am not sure. If so, how worried should I be? It's DC 5.9V, 1000mA. (It is a Infant Optics DXR-8, the camera part.) I'm waiting on a call back from the doctor, but am just trying to understand the magnitude of this potential shock. Minor or major? It's very difficult to google. (And I am already so angry at myself for letting him near the camera--please know that it was an error that will not happen again.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (30 answers total)
Minor, really really minor. Kids put their tongues on 9v batteries and even that is unpleasant but not dangerous.
posted by jclarkin at 5:35 PM on November 4, 2016 [14 favorites]

I would say minor. Major issue usually manifest an undeniable injury. Babies are very resilient.
posted by momochan at 5:35 PM on November 4, 2016

I'd be surprised if you could feel a 5v shock. It depends a lot on the impedance of the device in question as to whether any current flows at all.

On dry skin i'd say it's undetectable. On your tongue, the slightest buzz.
posted by GuyZero at 5:37 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Minor if at all. It's hard to get shocked by a car battery, which presumably is much more powerful a source. Skin is pretty resistant.

I'm really sorry how stressed you must be.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:39 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Chill. Your child is 100% fine.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:53 PM on November 4, 2016 [21 favorites]

It is really unlikely that your baby got shocked by the camera at all. Like GuyZero said, skin has a pretty high resistance and 5.9 volts is very low voltage.

As someone who has been shocked an embarrassing number of times, I am pretty comfortable saying that this is very minor shock territory.
posted by keeo at 6:00 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for the non answer but I don't even see a way that somebody could get *any* shock from this device or its charger. The crying is not related to electricity.
posted by ftm at 6:04 PM on November 4, 2016 [18 favorites]

I am uncoordinated and work with electric fences. This means I get shocked all the time. And I will say, getting hit with 12,000 volts kind of sucks. Given that this is three orders of magnitude larger than the shock your child may have received, I think y'all are fine.

By all means trust your doctor and call 911 or equivalent in your country if it looks bad.
posted by stet at 6:06 PM on November 4, 2016

As already said, very minor. One of my foster kids used to lick 9v batteries just to determine whether or not they were dead.

And I am already so angry at myself for letting him near the camera--please know that it was an error that will not happen again

New parent with first baby, right?

I'm sorry you are so stressed about this. Please be assured that leaving a camera within your baby's reach does not make you a bad parent. Also, you most certainly will make similar mistakes in the future—it's part of the parent-child package. Fortunately, the parent stress/guilt response to these minor infractions generally decreases over time.
posted by she's not there at 6:07 PM on November 4, 2016 [16 favorites]

Definitely minor, if it happened, and you should not feel guilty.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

And I am already so angry at myself for letting him near the camera--please know that it was an error that will not happen again.

It will happen again, because kids doing stuff that their parents don't want them to is what kids do. Be kind to yourself and try to not get too stressed about the small stuff.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:35 PM on November 4, 2016 [18 favorites]

My baby got his hands on the baby camera and suddenly started crying.

More likely pinched than shocked, if hurt at all, if it is the swively type camera. But more likely random baby crying.

Your kid is fine.
posted by zippy at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

The battery in this camera is unable to deliver enough power to shock your child. If you took it out and put your hand directly on top of its terminals, you'd feel nothing. If you touched them to your tongue, you might feel the slightest of tingles. I have done this with similar batteries; they just don't have the oomph to push a noticeable amount of electricity through your skin.

The only way the camera could shock your child is if the capacitor that stores charge for the flash somehow discharged into him. That would require there to be several major things wrong with the camera; it would have to be broken enough that it almost certainly wouldn't work at all, and the sudden discharge of the flash capacitor would both destroy the camera and also make a loud popping noise when it happened. It still would not be dangerous, though it would indeed be painful. Again, I've done this to myself more than once so I know what I'm on about. To make it happen I always had to substantially disassemble the camera in question and modify it in ways that precluded its ever being used as a camera again. This did not happen to your child.

You are freaking out because you don't understand electricity well enough to know when it's dangerous and when it isn't. There's no shame in that, nobody can know everything there is to know about everything, but that's what is going on in this case. Perhaps you have been freaked because you've heard that 100-200mA is enough to stop a heart, and this battery says "1000mA" on it? If you look more closely you'll see that it actually says "1000mAh". That's milliamp-hours, and is a capacity rating, not a current rating. It means the battery can deliver a current of 1000mA at close to its rated voltage of 5.9V for one hour before the voltage drops off. However, it can only do that through a conductive material like metal.

The human body, assuming unbroken skin, has a resistance of around 100,000 ohms. To get current, you simply divide the voltage of the source (5.9) by the resistance of the thing it's pushing electricity through (100,000) which here gives a result of 0.000059A, or about 0.06mA. A far cry from the 100mA that is considered dangerous to the human heart. This is seriously nothing, and you can safely stop worrying about it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:47 PM on November 4, 2016 [40 favorites]

Your kid doesn't draw 1000mA
posted by humboldt32 at 6:47 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

One day baby BustedCatalyzer picked up a laptop charger cable (20v ~60W) and put it in her mouth... For about a second or so. Then she pulled it out and cried. She was fine and still is, she was about 1 at the time.

After that she never did that again and we always made sure there were no stray laptop cables around.
posted by BustedCatalyzer at 6:57 PM on November 4, 2016

A wet mouth has a resistance of only about 7,000 ohms, by the way. 20V over 7kΩ gives a current of about 3mA. That's enough to feel, hence the crying, but still way less than is dangerous.

The other way electricity can be dangerous is by causing burns, but you don't get that effect until you are dealing with hundreds of volts. Even up to about 500V, electrical burns are typically minor and superficial. The flash capacitor in the camera can deliver that kind of voltage, for a small fraction of a second (its capacity is tiny compared to the battery). It's buried deep in the camera and carefully isolated from everything else specifically to keep it from discharging into people. The battery delivers nowhere close to enough voltage to cause burns, obviously.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:13 PM on November 4, 2016

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can confirm, but I don't believe baby cameras (that is, the camera part of baby monitors) ever have flash (or flash capacitors). If that is true, I think you can eliminate that as a source of worry, anonymous.
posted by fussbudget at 8:02 PM on November 4, 2016

Update from the anonymous OP:
I should have mentioned that he had his mouth on it. Also, it was plugged in with the cord. I'm most worried about whether he got his mouth on the part where the cord meets the camera--where there's a current. The shock there would be worse than a battery, right? He's fine, at least apparently, but I am still wondering. Thanks so much for the peace of mind.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:02 PM on November 4, 2016

Still, the cord is covered - unless you can see that the cord has been bitten through to the wires, he still couldn't have gotten shocked from this. Don't worry.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:15 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My strongest suspicion, having two babies of my own, is that he was crying because he saw you looking upset or that you were coming to take it away from him.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:16 PM on November 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Oh, for some reason I read "baby camera" as "regular camera used for photographing babies," not "video baby monitor." That was kinda dumb of me. A baby monitor has no flash of course.

In that case the rating was probably for the power coming out of the camera's power supply. Does the baby camera come with an adapter thingy where the plug is kind of a lump and then there's a thinnish cord ending in a round plug that goes into the baby camera to provide power? Is that where the "5.9V, 1000mA" rating comes from? That would make more sense. Sorry for misinterpeting you earlier.

That would indeed mean the power supply delivers 5.9 volts at up to 1000 milliamps, maximum. But your baby would still only draw a small fraction of one milliamp. It's just possible he got some saliva into the socket where the end of thr cord was and zapped himself just the tiniest bit. At 5.9V though this would be in the "mildly unpleasant" range rather than anything remotely dangerous. It might have startled him and maybe that's why he cried. Could be, sounds plausible.

Still definitely not dangerous though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:20 PM on November 4, 2016

Agreed that it seems more likely he sensed you were upset and cried because of that. But it's plausible given that he was chewing on the spot where the cord enters the camera that he gave himself the tiniest of tiny shocks. Repeat though, not dangerous! 5.9V DC just isn't, even in the mouth.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:24 PM on November 4, 2016

We have a 6V baby monitor charger as well and our kid was sucking on the end of it. He seemed to enjoy the buzz and the "lemony" taste (hard to describe). I put it in my mouth, it was a bit unpleasant by not too bad. It had less of a bite than licking a 9V battery, which I used to do commonly as a kid to figure out which ones had gone bad.

Now for some engineer talk. With a DC charger, the current return path is not ground, but to the common side of the charger. What that means is that the only current path is between the inside and outside of the barrel plug. In short, the only tissue that can be damaged is on the direct path between those two and you do not have to worry about anything but your babies tongue. At worst, there could be a small sore there.

Please forget about this, there is nothing to worry about!
posted by no1hatchling at 8:47 PM on November 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to all of these other fine reassurances, it's not as if exposure to electricity causes unseen long-term damage. If he seems fine, he is.

(PS, let me save you some time in the future: "if he seems fine, he is" will be your ped's response to about 95% of all your possible concerns.)
posted by teremala at 8:48 PM on November 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

If the cord goes to a "wall wart" type adapter (like a phone charger, etc.), then all the scary stuff is happening in that part, and the cord isn't carrying any more than the battery delivers.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 PM on November 4, 2016

Glad to hear Baby's fine.

Personal story re childhood encounter with electricity: I have a clear memory of sitting before an electric outlet (this pre-dates routine baby-proofing by a decade or two), Mom's car key in hand, ready to insert the key into what looked like a car ignition to my barely 2-years-old eyes. Oddly, I have no memory of what happened next, but I'm told that I had blisters on my little fingers.

Just occurred to me that I've heard that story countless times in the intervening years and my mother has never once said that she felt upset with herself or guilty for not keeping a closer watch on her toddler. It was a different time.
posted by she's not there at 12:27 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to work on 12v equipment live and not worry about touching the electrified bits, I never got a shock. Your child is fine.
posted by deadwax at 3:38 AM on November 5, 2016

Your baby is fine. If there was a shock at all I would suggest it was just enough to taste "sour".

WRT how you feel terrible that he touched the camera and he will never touch the camera again...

When my eldest was a few months shy of her third birthday she found herself alone in a room for 6 minutes. Her stepdad thought she was with me. I thought she was with him. In those six minutes she unscrewed a childsafe fire guard from a wall and lifted a hot coal from the lit fire with her bare hand. It was hot so she dropped it, and it melted through the rug and scorched the wood floor. Because her fingers were so dry it didn't actually burn her. She appeared in the kitchen six minutes after she'd left, sucking her hand. Her stepdad came in behind her and we simultaneously asked one another what she'd done to her hand.

Now, she grew up to be diagnosed with ADHD and Autism so not entirely the typical toddler experience, but she is 10.5 now and still alive despite these tendencies and my obvious laxity. So try to relax and be gentle with yourself. Parenting is being 100% responsible for someone you only have 3% of control over.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your baby is fine. Your baby did not get a shock. Call the doctor's office and tell them your baby is fine and you do not need a call back. Because your baby is fine and even if your baby got a mild shock from something else, they can't un-shock him.

I am so sorry you are so worried but this is over the top. Is this the first time you've had an 'oops' with your son, or are you regularly prone to anxiety over his well-being to this extent? If the latter, I might consider talking to somebody about the fears. You are supposed to be enjoying babyhood, not stressing out over it!

(For others who were confused: OP has a video baby monitor, not a Fisher-Price toddler camera, or a camera OP is using to photograph the baby. I had to Google...)
posted by kmennie at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yep, this is "tastes like fizzy lemon" territory. Like others here, I occasionally lick things with higher power output than this to check whether they're working. Might be unpleasant/surprising for your baby, but not at all harmful.
posted by sibilatorix at 4:32 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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