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What to Do When Struck by Lightning in Northern California

Lightning strikes are very common — they happen millions of times per day, all over the world. While your odds of being struck by lightning are very low, the consequences can be very damaging, and potentially deadly. 

Lightning strikes send a huge electrical current through your body in a split second. This can cause burns, damage to internal organs, and cardiac arrest. Ten percent of lightning strike cases result in death.

If you or someone around you has been struck by lightning in Northern California, call 911 immediately or go to a Dignity Health North State emergency room. Our expert ER doctors and staff can provide quick, personalized treatment. If you’re coming to our ER, select your estimated arrival time using InQuicker.


Know the Symptoms of Being Struck by Lightning

  • People struck by lightning can experience the following symptoms: 
  • Cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) 
  • Breathing problems, including not breathing
  • Paralysis, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness 
  • Burns on the body or clothing
  • Coma or loss of consciousness
  • Confusion, disorientation, and memory problems
  • Vision problems
  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Personality changes (can be permanent)


Understanding Lightning Strikes

Cloud-to-ground lightning typically strikes the tallest object in the immediate area. Isolated objects in an open area are at an increased danger of being hit by lightning. These include trees, towers, flagpoles, playground equipment, fences, and people. 

Surprisingly, as many as 30 percent of lightning strikes happen indoors. Lightning can follow power lines, telephone lines, and water pipes into your home. 

Contrary to popular belief, lighting can and does strike the same place twice. 


First Aid for Lightning Strikes 

If you witness someone being struck by lightning, call 911 right away. Then, check the person for visible damage. It is safe to touch the person after a lightning strike — the electric current has already passed into the ground. 

Be aware of continued danger from ongoing lightning. You may need to move the person to a safer spot. 

If the person has no pulse or is not breathing, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and continue until emergency help arrives. Cover the person with a jacket, or any other warm material, to help prevent hypothermia

You can prevent being struck by lightning by practicing lightning safety. Go indoors or inside a closed-top vehicle if you hear thunder. Avoid water, corded phones, and electrical equipment once indoors. Remain a safe distance away from windows, doors, and porches. If you find yourself in an open area during lightning strikes, crouch into a ball as close to the ground as possible (do not lie down). 

Want to be ready to help someone during a medical emergency? Prepare yourself by taking a Dignity Health North State basic life support class. Register by calling (888) 628-1948.

Dignity Health North State offers emergency help when you need it, including personal care after being struck by lightning, in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.