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Emergency Treatment for Lightning Strike


Lighting hits the ground millions of times a day, but it’s very rare for a person to be struck by lightning. However, when it happens, the consequences can be severe. The massive electric current can cause burns, cardiac arrest, and damage to internal organs. Around 10 percent of lightning strikes are fatal. Call 9-1-1 and seek emergency treatment for lightning strikes.

Our Dignity Health doctors and nurses offer a wide range of fast, personal care — even for rare accidents such as a lightning strike.

When are You Most Likely to Get Hit by Lightning?

Lightning tends to strike the tallest object near it. Isolated objects, including fences, flagpoles, towers, trees, and even people, are also targets. When these objects are in an open space, such as a field, they are even more vulnerable.

Surprisingly, 30 percent of lightning strikes occur indoors. Lightning can travel through water pipes, telephone lines, and power lines into buildings.

Practicing lightning safety can reduce your risk of being hit by lightning. If you hear thunder, go indoors or inside a closed-top vehicle. Once indoors, stay away from porches, windows, and doors. Avoid corded phones, electrical equipment, and water. If you are in an open area, crouch in a ball as close to the ground as possible. However, do not lie down. 

Lightning Strike Symptoms

Signs that someone has been hit by lightning include:

  • Breathing problems or not breathing
  • Burns or clothing that is blown apart or singed 
  • Coma or loss of consciousness 
  • Irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest
  • Memory problems, confusion, or disorientation
  • Paralysis, weakness, pain, tingling, or numbness
  • Personality changes, which can be permanent 
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Vision problems

First Aid & Emergency Treatment for Lightning Strike in the Bay Area

Call 9-1-1 and seek medical care for a lightning strike — even if the injury appears to be minor. Complications from lightning strikes can cause permanent disability.

If you are with sometime hit by lightning, assess the person’s injuries. It is safe to touch the person, but be aware of continued danger from additional lightning strikes. Move to a safer area if necessary.

Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the person is not breathing and has no pulse. Keep doing chest compressions until medical help arrives. Cover the person with a blanket or lay him or her on a jacket to help prevent hypothermia.

At our Dignity Health emergency rooms, our experts can provide any needed treatment. Trust us to react with expertise and personal care in emergency situations.

Dignity Health provides a range of emergency care, including treating for lightning strikes, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.