What happens to you if you are struck by lightning

00:00 Mon 03rd Sep 2001 |

asks Bronski:
Chances are you'll survive. About 20% of all people hit by lightning will die. Men are struck four times more than women. However, this may be because they are more likely to be swinging metal objects around in thunderstorms!

Q. How does the lightning affect us
Well, you won't burst into flames or be reduced to a pile of ashes, as in a cartoon. The lighting is more likely to 'flash' all over you and blow off your clothes, but there will be few, if any, external signs of injury.

The main cause of immediate death is cardiac or cardiopulmonary arrest. If you survive, however, your nervous system - including your brain - may be damaged.

Survivors typically have memory problems and difficulty processing information, which makes it impossible for them to do more than one thing at a time. Some make suffer from personality changes and become irritable. There may also be headaches, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness and insomnia.

Q. What are my chances of being hit by lightning
Higher than you'd think. We don't tend to take being hit by lightning very seriously as a danger: the phrase 'as likely as getting struck by lightning' means that there's virtually no chance at all. However the odds of being struck are around 1 in 600,000.

Q. How can I avoid being hit by lightning
The first thing to remember is that if you can hear thunder, you're close enough to be in danger. So go indoors at the faintest rumble of thunder. The best places to shelter are enclosed buildings, or cars and buses - but don't touch anything metal. The worst are bus shelters, porches or anywhere open.

Q. Can you be injured indoors
Yes. Lightning may strike buildings and the current can travel along wiring. People who have been using the phone indoors have been injured by lighting. There's also a risk if you're near wiring, pipes or other metal objects.

Q. What should you do if you're stuck outdoors
Move at least two metres away from any tall objects and crouch down until it's safe to get away.

Q. Where can I find out more
Visit the Lightning Strike Survivor's website.

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By Sheena Miller

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