Prevent Lightning Strike Injuries
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD
While lightning strike fatalities are decreasing thanks to public education
programs, many people are still injured or killed by lightning each year.
Consider the following facts:
- Lightning kills more people annually in the U.S. than
hurricanes or tornadoes.
- Lightning strikes kill an average of 67 people in the
United States each year.
- Although 90% of those struck by lightning survive, up
to 700 survivors of lightning strikes annually will be left with long-term
health effects that include memory loss, weakness, depression, attention
disturbances, feelings of numbness or dizziness, stiffness in joints,
irritability, fatigue, muscle
spasms, and an inability to sit still for long periods.
- July is the peak month for lightning strikes in the U.S.
Whenever you hear thunder or see a storm approaching, you can prevent
lightning strike injuries by:
- Staying indoors in a safe building. Buildings are
considered safe if they are fully enclosed with a roof, walls, floor, and
plumbing and wiring. Plumbing and wiring are critical because the electrical
current from a lightning strike will travel through the wiring into the
ground. Picnic shelters and partially open buildings such as carports,
gazebos, and covered patios without internal wiring are not safe for this
reason. Tents also offer no protection from lightning strikes.
- Stay inside hard-topped cars and other vehicles (not
convertibles!) that also provide safe shelters from lightning.
- Always stay away from metal objects and wet ropes.
- Never take shelter under tall trees or under a
partially-enclosed shelter. If you are outdoors and cannot reach a car or a
safe building, find a ditch or low-lying area and sit in a crouched position
to wait out the storm.
- In all cases, wait 30 minutes after you hear thunder or see lightning to
resume outdoor activities or leave a safe building or vehicle.
For additional information, please visit the First Aid
Reference: National Weather Service, (http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/)
Last Editorial Review: 7/8/2005