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Beware of Summer Lightning

< Jul. 13, 2011 > -- Summer is the time to enjoy the great outdoors - but keep an eye on the sky. Lightning in summer thunderstorms can be deadly.

"Lightning is one of the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazards," says Sandra M. Schneider, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Seasonal storms

Thunderstorms - and the lightning that accompanies them - are common in summer months, as higher air temperatures make the atmosphere more unstable. About 80 people in the U.S. are killed by lightning each year, and 300 more are injured. Those that survive a lightning strike may end up with permanent injuries such as eye or ear damage, headaches, or memory problems.

"Use common sense," Dr. Schneider says. "If you plan to be outdoors, check the local weather forecast. Generally, if you can hear thunder, you are at risk, even if you don't see lightning. … Seek shelter when those storms roll through."

How to stay safe

ACEP offers these tips to help avoid getting struck by lightning:

  • Stay inside during a storm. If you are outdoors when a storm comes up, take shelter as soon as possible. Choose a building that has plumbing and wiring, or a car that's not a convertible.

  • Inside the house, turn off and stay away from electrical appliances, televisions, computers, and power tools. Keep your distance from the fireplace as well.

  • If possible, use cell phones and cordless phones rather than landline telephones with cords.

  • If you are swimming or in water, get on dry land.

  • Keep away from metal objects.

  • Wait 30 minutes from the last lightning flash before returning to your outdoor activities.

If you are with someone who is struck by lightning, call 911 and begin CPR immediately if the person doesn't have a pulse. Give 100 chest compressions a minute for an adult, and 30 compressions alternating with two breaths per minute for a child.

For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.

Camping with Safety in Mind

It's summertime, when many families head for the hills, fields, and forests. Planning ahead and being safety-conscious while in the wild can keep everyone safe and secure. Here are suggestions from the American Red Cross:

  • Pick your campsite with safety in mind. Look for level ground sheltered by surrounding trees and rocks, if possible. To avoid lightning strikes, don't set up under the tallest tree.

  • Be fire smart. If a fire is allowed, choose a spot at a safe distance from your tent and dry brush. Make sure someone watches a fire at all times and has access to an adequate water supply to take action if it gets out of control.

  • Dispose of trash properly. Unless there's onsite disposal, plan on packing your garbage and storing it away from your tent until you leave, to keep critters at bay. Then, take it home and toss it.

  • Check yourself for ticks and other insects. They can carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

  • Stay hydrated. To avoid dehydration in hot weather, drink more water than you think you need. Plan difficult hikes or activities in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American College of Emergency Physicians – Lightning Injury

Federal Emergency Management Agency – Thunderstorms and Lightning

Merck Manual Home Health Handbook – Lightning Injuries