Facebook Twitter

WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, CHECK AIRWAY, BREATHING, CIRCULATION

SHARE WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, CHECK AIRWAY, BREATHING, CIRCULATION

Case No. 1. A 16-year-old camper was injured when lightning struck a nearby flagpole and splash-over current passed to him. He suffered cardiac arrest and was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He was resuscitated but was paralyzed.

Case No. 2. A 21-year-old heavy-equipment operator was struck by lightning while working outside during a thunderstorm. He was given CPR, was successfully resuscitated but is partially paralyzed.Case No. 3. A 57-year-old bicyclist stopped under a tree during a thunderstorm. He suffered a lightning strike that burned the skin of his back and legs. He is partially paralyzed.

Case No. 4. A 15-year-old was struck by lightning while hiking in a national park. He was successfully resuscitated with CPR.

Case No. 5. A 20-year-old man was struck by lightning while working on a roof. Lightning entered the right leg and exited at the right arm. He was in a coma for one week. A medical follow-up six months later showed memory impairment.

Lightning strikes kill about 100 and injure 300 people in the United States each year. The first thing to do for a lightning struck victim is to check the ABCs (airway open, breathing and circulation, determined by feeling the pulse).

One study found that lightning-strike victims suffer loss of consciousness (72 percent) and lower-leg paralysis (69 percent). Neurological signs and symptoms in lightning struck victims fall into one of two groups:

1. Immediate but transient. These symptoms last minutes to days and include loss of consciousness, amnesia, loss of vision, numbness, weakness of the extremities and pain. The most famous victim with transient numbness of the extremities was Benjamin Franklin. One expert says that "most victims of electrical shock either die immediately or recover . . . without demonstrable neurological damage."

2. Delayed and usually progressive. The delayed symptoms can occur days, weeks and sometimes even months after the lightning strike. These include seizure disorder, paralysis, brain disorders and injury.

Activities of victims are occupational and recreational. Farming, ranching and roofing are among the more dangerous occupations. High on the list of recreations associated with lightning strikes are water sports (boating, fishing, swimming), golfing, hiking, camping, motorcycling, field sports and bicycling.

A small number of lightning victims have been indoors when struck. Because lightning can play havoc with power and telephone lines, some people have been struck while using the telephone or an electrical appliance. Others have been struck while bathing or showering during an electrical storm.

Prevention

- Do not stand at the highest point during a thunderstorm.

- Do not seek shelter under the only tree.

- Do not carry a golf club or metal umbrella on a golf course.

- Do not swim or boat during thunderstorms.

- Do not touch plumbing or electrical appliances during a thunderstorm.

- Do not use a telephone during a thunderstorm.

- Stay in an automobile during a thunderstorm. If struck, the electrical energy will travel about the outside of the metal before arcing to the ground. The car's rubber tires do not provide insulation.

- Do not wear metal about the head (i.e., hair clasps, metal combs, headphones and large earrings) during a storm.

- Should your hair stand on end, it is good evidence that there is a mounting potential between one's body and the clouds. In this case, one should seek low ground or assume a kneeling or squatting position.

The best places to be during an electrical storm, in order of preference are: home or office, car, grove of trees and valleys or hollows.