What are lightning injuries?

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When a person sustains an injury from lightning, damage to the body may include injury to muscular or nervous tissue, cardiac arrest, cessation of breathing, burns, or death. In most cases a person will not suffer severe burns because a lightning strike occurs very quickly and does not allow tissue to become excessively hot. Cardiac arrest and cessation of breathing may result from a disruption in the functioning of the heart or brain. If a person is deprived of oxygen for several minutes, brain damage may also result. If the heart and brain cannot be restarted, the result is death. A person does not need to be struck by lightning directly to be injured. A person can also be injured by lightning striking the ground nearby the person or striking an object the person is in contact with. It is a myth that a person who has been struck by lightning will retain an electrical charge. It is safe to provide first aid to a victim of a lightning strike.

(This answer provided for NATA by Carrie F. Reynolds, MS, ATC, VATL.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.