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Lightning Storms Cause Death Due to Cardiac and Respiratory Arrest

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | August 12, 2009

Complications and Mortality

Most survivors suffer other injuries, she says. Half of people struck by lightning will suffer rupture of the tympanic membrane in the ear. Very commonly survivors go on to develop cataracts.

People who are hit by lightning die from ventricular fibrillation, cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest, Dr. Zinzuwadia notes.

She says bystanders who see someone hit by lightening should immediately check the victim for a pulse and for spontaneous breathing. If a person is in respiratory arrest--has a pulse but is not breathing--provide rescue breaths until the victim resumes spontaneous breathing, she advises.

"And immediately call 911 for help if someone is hit by lightning," she adds.

If the victim goes into cardiac arrest, where the heart stops due to the impact of the intense electrical current, CPR should be administered. "Give cardiac compressions and provide respiratory support for them," she says.

Seek Cover As Soon As a Storm Starts

Lightning seems to be concentrated at the forefront of a storm, says Dr. Zinzuwadia, so there tends to be a greater risk of being hit by lightning at the storm's outset.

"If you are outside during a storm, crouch down and try to touch as little of the ground as you can," she advises. "Even if you are hit by the current, the less contact there is between you and the ground, the better your chances of survival," she says.

Source: UMDNJ-The University Hospital

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