National Lightning Safety Awareness Week - Friday

...Medical Aspects of Lightning...

In the United States each year, lightning kills an average of 55 people and injures more than 300 people. Injuries can be tragic and even more devastating to the family than the death of a loved one. In addition to the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by the victim and the family, the incident may result in the loss of income for the family. Over time, medical expenses for treatment may drain the family's assets.

If someone is struck by lightning, it is important that they receive the appropriate medical attention immediately. If possible, move the victim to a safer place. Do not let the rescuers become additional lightning victims. Lightning can strike in the same spot twice. Lightning strike victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to handle. Call 911 and then check to see that the victim is breathing and has a pulse. Continue to monitor the victim until help arrives. Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death in lightning fatalities. If necessary, begin CPR. Physically, only a few lightning strike victims suffer burns. These lightning burns are usually minor and occur when objects next to the body, such as rings, necklaces, of metal coins are heated by the lightning. In addition, sweat vaporized by lightning can cause burns.

Mentally, lightning strike victims may face challenges for the rest of their lives. The person may suffer from short term memory loss and may have difficulty mentally storing new information and accessing old information. Victims may often find it very difficult to carry out more than one task at a time and may be easily distracted. Their personalities may change and they may become easily irritated. Victims often complain of being easily fatigued and can become exhausted after a few hours of work. This may be because mental tasks that were automatic now require intense concentration to accomplish. Although some victims may sleep excessively at first, after a few weeks, may find it difficult to sleep more than 2 to 3 hours at a time.

Another common long term problem for survivors is pain. Lightning strike victims may often have irreparable nerve damage. Many survivors complain of chronic headaches, some of which are intense and debilitating. It is important to remember than while many lightning victims survive, their lives are changed forever and their dreams for the future--and those of their families--will never be the same. For more information on lightning safety, go to is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.