Jul 29, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Being struck by lightning is not a common way to die. In fact, fewer than 50 people are struck and killed by lightning in the United States every year. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t, and won’t happen. Just this past weekend a man was killed by a lightning strike on crowded Venice Beach in southern California, and more than a dozen people standing nearby were injured.

So, how can you avoid being the subject of an unfortunate headline? Be aware of your surroundings.

“Get away from high ground when thunderstorms appear to be coming and get indoors if possible,” says Scott Youngquist, MD, an emergency medical physician with University of Utah Health. “Unfortunately, even if you are not the highest object around, lightning can strike a nearby tree or even the ground and current can hit you, so called splash current.“

Youngquist also says not to believe old wives tales about being to predict when lightning is about to strike. “Some victims report recalling unusual symptoms prior to being struck such as hair-raising, magnetization of metal objects, or a strange feeling,” he says,” However, these are not reliably experienced by all victims and should not be used as a guide to determine whether you are in danger.”

What if the worst does happen and you, or someone you are with is struck? The thing to do first is move out of the way. “Get out of the path of more lightning. While they say lightning doesn't strike twice, it happens,” says Youngquist. Once you are safely out of the path of lightning, know the injuries you treating.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is the most dire outcome. Sometimes recovery can occur with supportive CPR until the stunned heart begins to beat on its own. A defibrillator should be applied as soon as possible if available as well, in case the heart needs a counter shock.” Call for help immediately, and “if the victim is awake, have them drink fluids while getting to definitive care.”

The number of fatal lightning strikes goes down in the United States every year. In 2013 there were already 35 fatal strikes by the beginning of August, this year there are only 15. Experts say it’s likely because people are spending less time outside, and taking better precautions. Make sure you are taking them too, and when thunder clouds are present, get inside, or get down. 

Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby.

lightning summer cpr prevention

comments powered by Disqus

Sign Up for Weekly Health Updates

Get weekly emails of the latest news from HealthFeed.

For Patients

Find a doctor or location close to you so you can get the health care you need, when you need it