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What to Do During a Lightning Storm

In the United States each year, lightening kills more than 500 people and injures more than 1000 people. Seventy-four percent of the survivors suffer permanent injuries. More deaths are caused by lightning than floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Lightning causes skin burns, nerve damage, and death from irregular heart beats. The people who are killed by lightning are often spectators or participants in sporting events.

Lightning can strike without warning, so sponsors of outdoor events should have loudspeakers, sirens or horns to alert people approaching electrical storms. Water, metal and high objects attract lightning. When an electrical storm starts, try to enter a building or your automobile as quickly as possible. Get in your car, not near it. You are safe in your car. Standing near a car increases your risk of being struck by lightening because you are standing near metal. To avoid being near metal, get off your bike and away from it when you seek shelter. If you're on the golf course, get away from your golf clubs and cart.

Avoid being the tallest object, so do not stand in the middle of a field or under a single tree that is the tallest object in your area. Standing under a tree that is shorter than other trees nearby is far safer. Standing makes you the tallest object, so, If you cannot get to shelter, go to a low spot and crouch down.

Don't stay near water. Just being near a lake, ocean or swimming pool increases your chances of being struck by lightning. Water sports such as swimming, fishing and boating increase your risk. Take the lifeguard's warnings or radio bulletins seriously, get out of the water and go to the nearest shelter.

Lightning injuries in sports - Situations to avoid. Cherington M. Sports Medicine, 2001, Vol 31, Iss 4, pp 301-308.

Checked 8/13/14

May 31st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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