Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

ER Physician Tells You How To Avoid A Lightning Strike And What To Do If One Occurs

Date:
August 7, 2009
Source:
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Summary:
An estimated 200 people die each year in the U.S. after being struck by lightning. An extremely brief but intense hit delivers more than 10 million volts and is fatal in about 30 percent of cases. Recent lightning strikes in Newark resulted in one death and three injuries.

An estimated 200 people die each year in the U.S. after being struck by lightning. An extremely brief but intense hit delivers more than 10 million volts and is fatal in about 30 percent of cases. Recent lightning strikes in Newark resulted in one death and three injuries.
Credit: iStockphoto/Shane Shaw

An estimated 200 people die each year in the U.S. after being struck by lightning. An extremely brief but intense hit delivers more than 10 million volts and is fatal in about 30 percent of cases. Recent lightning strikes in Newark resulted in one death and three injuries.

Related Articles


Most survivors have significant complications. Half of people struck by lightning will suffer rupture of the tympanic membrane in the ear. Many go on to develop cataracts.

“Lightning presents a grave risk of death,” warns Shreni Zinzuwadia, M.D., an emergency department physician at UMDNJ-The University Hospital and instructor of surgery at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. “Cardiac or respiratory arrest may result from being hit by lightning.”

There are other dangers outside of a direct hit, she added, from three additional types of strikes.

A side strike happens when lightning jumps from its initial point of contact to the victim. “For example, if you seek protection under a tree, which is one of the worst places to be during a storm, the lightning can hit the tree then jump to you, a better conductor of electricity since humans are mostly salty water,” she explained. “This kind of strike can kill the tree and the person.”

A contact strike occurs when lightning hits an object the person is holding or wearing, such as a watch or eyeglasses.

The other type of strike - step potential – happens when a current traveling through the ground goes up your leg, travels through you and then goes down the other leg and back into the ground. “That is why Boy Scouts practice standing on one leg during a storm,” she explained. “They are attempting to decrease the likelihood that the current will go through them by having only one foot on the ground.”

Prevention begins by seeking cover at the start of a storm. “Lightning seems to be concentrated at the forefront of a storm,” according to Zinzuwadia, “so there tends to be a greater risk of being hit by lightning at the beginning of a storm.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), individuals who hear thunder roar should go indoors because no place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. Stay indoors until 30 minutes have passed after you hear the last clap of thunder.

Once inside, FEMA advises that people avoid contact with corded phones and electrical equipment or cords; do not wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes, or do laundry because plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity; stay away from windows and doors; stay off porches; and do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

If you are outside during a storm, crouch down and try to touch as little of the ground as you can, Zinzuwadia suggests. “Even if you are hit by the current, the less contact there is between you and the ground, the less likely it is that all of your major organs will be hit,” she says. “It increases your chances of survival.”

What signs might indicate that a person has been struck by lightning? “You may see superficial burns on the skin or clothing may burst into flames or be torn away from the body,” Zinzuwadia said. “A person may fall to the ground.

“People who are hit by lightning commonly die from ventricular fibrillation, asystole (cardiac arrest), or respiratory arrest,” Zinzuwadia added. “Bystanders should immediately check for a pulse and spontaneous breathing.”

Immediately call 911 for help if someone is hit by lightning, Zinzuwadia emphasizes.

If a person is in respiratory arrest – has a pulse but is not breathing - provide rescue breaths until the victim resumes spontaneous breathing.

If the victim goes into cardiac arrest, where the heart just stops due to the impact of the massive electrical current, CPR should be administered, Zinzuwadia said. “Give cardiac compressions and provide respiratory support for them.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. "ER Physician Tells You How To Avoid A Lightning Strike And What To Do If One Occurs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090805193601.htm>.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. (2009, August 7). ER Physician Tells You How To Avoid A Lightning Strike And What To Do If One Occurs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090805193601.htm
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. "ER Physician Tells You How To Avoid A Lightning Strike And What To Do If One Occurs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090805193601.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins