Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nation's Emergency Physician Issue Warning about Lightning: Take Precautions To Avoid Being Killed or Injured

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Nation’s Emergency Physician Issue Warning about Lightning: Take Precautions To Avoid Being Killed or Injured
Washington, DC — As summer temperatures heat up, the atmosphere becomes more unstable, causing severe weather that may include lightning. On average in the United States, around 55 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are injured permanently. While your risk of being struck by lightning is low, it is a serious danger that increases at this time of year, and the nation’s emergency physicians want to prevent you from being part of those statistics.

“Lightning is one of the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazards,” said Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “A person’s risk for lightning injury is most consistently related to their failure to take appropriate precautions.”

Facts About Lightning:
The National Weather Service estimates that lightning strikes the earth about 25 million times per year in the United States. Someone struck by lightning does not carry an electric charge and is safe to touch. Ninety percent of people struck by lightning survive, according to guidelines published in Annals of Emergency Medicine (2002), but many suffer permanent after-effects and disabilities.

If the victim has stopped breathing, and you are able to give rescue breaths, begin rescue breathing — once every 5 seconds.

How To Avoid Lightning Strikes:

If you’re outdoors before or during a lightning storm, locate shelter as soon as possible. An insulated building with plumbing and wiring is the best choice. An enclosed motor vehicle with a metal top also is safe. Turn off and stay away from electrical appliances, fireplaces, televisions, computers and power tools. Do not use a landline telephone (with cords). It is safe to use cell phones or cordless phones. Stay away from water. Avoid metal objects. Wait 30 minutes from the last observed lightning flash before resuming activities.

“Use common sense. If you plan to be outdoors, check the local weather forecast,” said Dr. Schneider. “Generally, if you can hear thunder, you are at risk, even if you don’t see lightning. Don’t risk it. Seek shelter when those storms roll through.

Physical Effects of Lightning Strikes:

Lightning can cause respiratory or cardiac arrest, eye damage, paralysis, fractures, ear ringing or ruptured ear drums, loss of hearing and loss of consciousness, severe internal and external burns and amnesia or confusion. Long–term effects can include cataracts, dry eyes, sleep disturbances, memory dysfunction, headache, fatigue, joint stiffness and muscle spasms.

If a person is struck by lightning and you’re nearby, call 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention. If the person is bleeding or burned, apply the appropriate first aid. Keep in mind; the person may be unconscious, disoriented or unable to speak. If the victim does not have a pulse, and you know CPR, begin external cardiac compressions — at least 100 times a minute (more than 1 a second). If the victim is a child, push 30 times, then blow air twice into the child’s mouth. With a small child, pinch the nose closed, cover the mouth with your mouth and blow. Each blow, or breath, should take about 1 second. Continue alternating with 30 compressions and 2 breaths.

For more information about lightning safety and other health-related issues, please go to

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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