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Lightning Strike (cont.)

What is the treatment for a lightning strike?

In general, if you have no symptoms and a normal ECG, you may be sent home with a referral to any specialists if needed.

The doctor will treat those injuries that are discovered on the physical examination.

  • Head injury indicated by a loss of consciousness and or confusion is frequently treated by observation in the hospital.
  • Possible injury to the heart that shows up on an abnormal ECG or in blood enzyme levels is usually managed in the hospital by observation and medicine if needed.
  • Ear and eye injuries are treated as needed with referral to an appropriate specialist.
  • Keraunoparalysis is usually temporary but may require observation in the hospital.
  • Spine injuries usually require hospitalization for observation or surgical stabilization.
  • Broken bones may be treated with splinting or may require surgery.
  • Symptoms of nerve injury (numbness, tingling) can generally be monitored by a neurologist.

What is the follow-up for a lightning strike?

As the person leaves the hospital, medical staff should give the patient clear instructions regarding home treatment and follow-up for specific injuries.

How do you prevent getting struck by lightning?

The following tips may help a person avoid being struck by lightning. Lightning may occur well in front of or behind a thunderstorm.

  • Avoid being outside in open spaces during thunderstorms. If you hear thunder, you are in range for a lightning strike. You need to seek shelter immediately if you are outside. Lightning can travel 10-12 miles ahead of a storm and seem to come out of a clear blue sky.
  • Take cover from storms, avoiding the highest elevation areas and tall objects.
  • Do not carry or hold tall metal objects during thunderstorms. Drop any golf clubs, fishing poles, or baseball bats. Remove metal objects such as a baseball helmet.
  • If lightning has struck the immediate area, remember that lightning can strike the same place twice.
  • If you cannot find shelter, crouch down in a catcher's stance. Put your hands on your knees or place them over your ears to protect against hearing damage from thunder. If other people are with you, stay 15 feet apart.
  • A fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car or school bus can be a good shelter. Close all windows and do not touch anything metal connected to the vehicle. A golf cart is not a suitable shelter. Heavy equipment operators may stay inside the machine's closed canopy, but do not step out to seek shelter.
  • Even if you are inside a building, close all windows and stay away from them. Do not use the land-line telephone or electrical appliances including computers. Lightning may strike outside lines and travel inside.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or thunder before you venture outside your sheltered area.
  • The simple safety slogan of the National Lightning Safety Institute is this: If you can see it (lightning), flee it (take shelter). If you can hear it (thunder), clear it (stop your activities).

Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine


National Weather Service. Summary of Natural Hazard Statistics for 2011 in the United States. Lightning Injuries.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2016
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Lightning Injuries »

Over the last century, records for environmental injuries and mortality indicate that lightning has consistently been one of the top 3 environment-related causes of death and the second most common storm-related cause of death, exceeded only by flash floods.

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