Emergency: Lightning Strike - First Aid

Table of contents:

Emergency: Lightning Strike - First Aid
Emergency: Lightning Strike - First Aid
Video: Emergency: Lightning Strike - First Aid
Video: Lightning Strike First Aid 2023, February

Emergency: lightning strike

In Austria around five to ten people suffer lightning accidents every year. A third of accidents are fatal. A few decades ago, lightning accidents were much more common because more people were working outdoors. Lightning protection technologies are also better today. Today, lightning accidents mostly happen during leisure activities.

Lightning is electrical discharge in a cloud or from a cloud to the ground. A lightning discharge is associated with extremely high electrical voltage and temperature. At the same time, an explosive pressure wave is created. All of this can be life threatening for humans. Lightning can hit people in different ways, the most dangerous being a direct lightning strike.


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • How do lightning accidents occur?
  • What are the dangers of a lightning strike?
  • How can I provide first aid?
  • How can you prevent lightning accidents?

How do lightning accidents occur?

There are different ways in which the energy of a lightning strike can be transmitted to humans. These include:

  • Direct hit: This is the most dangerous type of lightning accident, extremely high voltage flows directly through the body. A direct lightning strike is usually fatal.
  • Contact effect: Lightning strikes an object that is touched by a person (e.g. a golf club that is being held in the hand). Following the path of least resistance, the current can spread to humans.
  • Rollover effect: The lightning actually strikes another object (eg a tree), part of the energy but is about to land on a person retransmitted (so-called leakage current; he can at a distance of about 30 meters of the impact point lethal consequences cause).
  • Step voltage effect: In the vicinity of the lightning strike, current flows through the floor into one of the legs of the person affected. When the legs are spread, a voltage difference arises between the legs: the current enters the body through one leg and exits again through the other leg.
  • Conductor-mediated lightning effect: The lightning strike hits a telephone or electric line, the current can be transmitted to people when making a phone call or operating an electrical device.

What are the dangers of a lightning strike?

A lightning strike is an accident involving extremely high voltage that affects the body for a very short time. On the one hand, electrical energy is dangerous for people, but on the other hand, the high temperatures and the force of the pressure wave released by the lightning strike.

Possible consequences of a lightning accident are:

  • severe burns,
  • Broken bones and other external injuries that are caused by being thrown away, e.g. head injuries, bleeding,
  • Temporary nerve and muscle paralysis (e.g. swallowing disorders, symptoms of paralysis),
  • Disorientation, loss of memory (amnesia),
  • Unconsciousness,
  • Ventricular fibrillation,
  • Cardiac arrest,
  • Apnea,
  • Shock.

Typical signs of a lightning strike on the body are branched lightning figures on the skin, these can be observed in 20 to 30 percent of the victims of lightning accidents.

Cardiac arrhythmias, in particular, can be immediately life-threatening; they are the main cause of death after lightning accidents. If the accident is survived at first, the severe burns can be fatal at a later point in time. Heart attacks or delayed kidney failure after lightning accidents are also not uncommon.

However, the majority of lightning accident victims survived. Possible late effects are, for example, visual and hearing impairments or changes in personality. Sometimes these only appear weeks or months after the accident.

How can I provide first aid?

Note It is safe to touch a person who has been struck by lightning to help them!

In the event of a lightning accident, the first aider should proceed as follows:

  • Dial the emergency number 144 or 112 or 141 (mountain rescue).
  • Shout out loud for help and make those around you aware of the emergency!
  • Check awareness: speak and shake gently.
  • Check your breathing: stretch your head, hear, see, feel for max. ten seconds.

    • Normal breathing is present: Bring the person affected into a stable lateral position. Check your breathing again and again until the emergency services arrive! Cover the person with a blanket to avoid hypothermia.
    • Breathing abnormally: start resuscitation immediately; 30x chest compressions, 2x ventilation. Repeat this until the rescue workers are on site or the person shows signs of life. Make sure you get help and take turns with another helper!

More on the subject: first aid measures

The chances of being resuscitated for lightning victims are generally better than for cardiovascular arrest from other causes. However, quick help is essential!

Additional measures:

  • If burns are visible, cover them with sterile cover if possible; more about emergency: burns
  • Treat obvious injuries; more about emergencies: injuries

Note Even if the person is conscious shortly after a lightning accident and no obvious consequences or injuries can be identified, there may be cardiac arrhythmias or internal injuries. Therefore a medical check-up is always important.

How can you prevent lightning accidents?

The most important thing before hiking, mountain or bicycle tours: Inquire carefully about the weather forecast. Do not take thunderstorm warnings lightly, especially when traveling off-road with no safe accommodation.

Thunderstorms are announced by thunder. If less than ten seconds elapse between lightning and thunder, there is a risk of lightning strikes nearby. Buildings with lightning protection systems, cars with full bodies (no convertibles), caravans or the cabins of construction machinery offer reliable protection against a lightning strike. Important: the windows must be closed!

If you are surprised by an outdoor thunderstorm, you should avoid high, exposed points if possible. These include, for example, individual tall trees (the edge of the forest is more dangerous than the interior of the forest with trees of even height), mountain ridges and peaks or observation towers. Also bodies of water, boats without lightning protection etc. are dangerous (get out of the water immediately at the first signs of a thunderstorm!). You should keep a distance from metal objects (this includes, for example, a bicycle or an umbrella!). Wells are relatively safe.

Tip The following position reduces the risk of your health being damaged by lightning: Put your feet together to avoid step tension and crouch to make yourself small. Wrap your arms around your knees and do not lean against anything if possible.

If you seek refuge in a hut, a shed or the like: stay in the middle of the building and make yourself as small as possible there.

Popular by topic