First Aid Treatment for a Lightning Strike

Being struck by lightning is not as rare as you might think. Around thirty people in the United States are killed each year by being hit by lightning. Many more victims are struck by lightning and survive. Statistics show only around 10 percent of lightning strikes are fatal. Lightning strikes can cause severe electrical burns and disrupt the electrical activity of the heart, causing cardiac arrest. The victim may be thrown to the ground and sustain further injuries, including head injuries or limb fractures.

If you find yourself caught outside in a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately in a building or vehicle and stay there for at least thirty minutes after the storm has passed. If you can't find shelter quickly, avoid high ground and stay away from tall objects and water. Many people believe that crouching down is an effective way to stay safe during a thunderstorm; however, you are still at risk if you remain outdoors. Seeking shelter is the only effective way to protect yourself from a lightning strike. If no other shelter is available, a car will provide some limited protection from a lightning strike, although this isn't due to the rubber in the tires as most people believe. The metal body of a car will conduct the electricity from a lightning strike to the ground. Obviously, this only works when the car has a metal shell—unfortunately, a soft-top convertible will not keep you safe during a thunderstorm.

First Aid Treatment for a Lightning Strike

1. Consider your own safety, and take immediate shelter indoors if there is a risk of further lightning strikes.

2. Immediately call EMS.

3. The victim is safe to touch after a lightning strike; the body will not retain any electrical charge.

4. If the victim is conscious, assess for any injuries and burns. Monitor vital signs and provide reassurance until medical help arrives. Move the victim to shelter if safe to do so.

5. If the victim is unconscious, assess for the presence of normal breathing and commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if required.

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