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  • Writer's pictureSasha

Treating a lightning strike victim: Know how to help

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Know how to treat a lighting strike victim.

The diameter of the average bolt of lightning is one inch, and this bolt can carry up to 10 million-plus volts. Lightning has consistently been among the top five weather-related killers; however, as noted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 90% of victims that are struck by lightning survive the encounter. There are different kinds of lightning strikes, and they include

  • Direct strike: a person is struck directly by lightning.

  • Contact strike: a person is in contact with an object that has been struck by lightning.

  • Side splash: lightning jumps from the object it primarily struck on its way to the ground.

  • Ground strike: lightning strikes the ground and then, the current spreads in a circle around the spot.

  • Blunt injury : a person is violently thrown from either the lightning strike or the explosive force as the surrounding air is superheated and cooled rapidly.

  • An upward streamer is when a low-energy electrical charge moves upward to meet a downward leader. Even if it does not complete the lightning strike by connecting with the downward current, it might still have enough current to cause an electrical injury.

Symptoms of a lightning strike

Someone that has been struck by lightning might have an immediate cardiac arrest. There might be no obvious signs of injury in some victims, while they might become unconscious for varying periods in some others. They also may not remember what happened and seem confused. The lightning could also blow off their clothes and also leave some visible signs of injury.

First aid

The recommended steps for providing first aid to a victim of lightning strike, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include:

  • Call for help. Reach out to your local emergency number like 911 immediately. You can safely use cell phones during a storm. Give the emergency responder important information and directives on your whereabouts and where the victim was struck.

  • The next step is to assess the situation. Be conscious of the continuous lighting danger to both you and the victim. If the victim is in a high-risk area such as an open field or an isolated tree, you might need to move the victim to a safer location if necessary as both of you could be in danger. If you are wondering whether it’s safe or not to move the person, it is unusual for a lightning strike survivor to have any major broken bones that could lead to paralysis, except they were thrown a long-distance or experienced a fall.

  • Check if the victim will respond because lightning can often cause a heart attack. Check if the victim has a heartbeat and if they are breathing.

  • Then move on to resuscitate if the victim is not breathing. You can begin performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim has no pulse, then begin cardiac compressions (CPR). Continue your efforts to resuscitate the victim until the arrival of medical help.


It is safe to touch people struck by lightning, and they do not carry any charge. Therefore, you can give them first aid. Giving them first aid while awaiting professional medical help could help to save their lives.

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