Symptoms and Signs of Lightning Strike

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Lightning Strike

Lightning is one of the top weather-related killers. Most people killed or injured by lightning are outside doing recreational activities or sports, or are working outside such as construction or farming jobs. Lightning strikes may cause injury either by a direct strike or indirectly when the current goes through another object or the ground before reaching a person.

Symptoms of a direct lightning strike can include immediate cardiac arrest. Other symptoms of indirect lightning strikes include loss of consciousness, confusion, memory loss about the event, heart damage, temporary paralysis, superficial burns, broken bones and dislocations, skull fractures and neck injuries, shortness of breath due to lung damage, visual problems or cataracts due to eye injury, and ruptured eardrum which can cause pain, hearing loss, and dizziness. Lightning may even flash over the outside of a person, blow off their clothes, and leave few obvious signs of injury.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.