What are lightning injuries?


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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