June 23-29, 2013 is National Lightning Safety Week.
Throughout this week the National Weather Service in Jackson will emphasize lightning safety.
Today we will focus on the medical impacts of lightning.
The back of a man who was struck by lightning.
Photo from safetydirector.wordpress.com
An average of 52 lightning fatalities per year were reported nationally between 1983 and 2012. Lightning fatalities are probably under reported by 30 percent. About 10 percent of the people struck by lightning are killed, leaving the other 90 percent with various degrees of disability. The primary cause of death from lightning is cardiac arrest.
Unlike high voltage electrical injuries with which massive internal tissue damage may occur, lightning seldom causes substantial burns. In fact, most lightning burns are caused by objects such as rainwater, sweat, metal coins and necklaces being heated up and causing the burn.
Lightning tends to cause nervous system injury and may affect any or all parts of the nervous system. If the brain is affected, the result is often difficulty with short term memory. Coding new information, accessing old information, slower reaction time, intense headaches, ringing in the ears, depression, seizures and personality changes can occur among many other immediate symptoms and long term symptoms to those who have been struck by lightning. An organization which has been of tremendous help to survivors, their families, their physicians and other professionals is lightning strike and Electric Shock Survivors International.
Most lightning injuries and deaths can be prevented with advance planning. Staying abreast of the developing weather situation, and good common sense are two of the best preventatives from lightening strikes . NOAA weather radio can help keep you informed with the latest thunderstorm information and safety reminders.
Have a lightning safe summer!
Tomorrow we will discuss the myths and truths of lightning safety.
For additional information... please contact the National Weather Service office in Jackson Mississippi or visit the lightning safety awareness week web site at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/.