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Lightning: First Aid Recommendations

How to Help

Giving first aid to lightning strike victims while waiting for professional medical attention can save their lives. It is safe to touch a lightning strike victim. People struck by lightning DO NOT carry a charge.

Follow these four steps immediately to help save the life of a lightning strike victim:

  1. Call For Help
    Call 911 immediately. Give directions to your location and information about the strike victim(s). It is safe to use a cell phone during a storm.
    • How many victims are there?
    • Where was the victim struck?
    • Is the storm still continuing?
    Assess The Situation
    Safety is a priority. Be aware of the continuing lightning danger to both the victim and rescuer. If the area where the victim is located is high risk (e.g., an isolated tree or open field), the victim and rescuer could both be in danger. If necessary, move the victim to a safer location. It is unusual for a victim who survives a strike to have any major broken bones that would cause paralysis or major bleeding complications unless the person suffered a fall or was thrown a long distance. Therefore, it may be safe to move the victim to minimize possible further exposure to lightning.
  2. Illustration of a lightning strike victim being checked for a pulse in the carotid arteryRespond
    Lightning often causes a heart attack. Check to see if the victim is breathing and has a heartbeat. The best place to check for a pulse is the carotid artery which is found on your neck directly below your jaw, as shown in the picture.
  3. Resuscitate
    If the victim is not breathing, immediately begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim does not have a pulse, start cardiac compressions as well (CPR). Continue resuscitation efforts until help arrives. If the area is cold and wet, putting a protective layer between the victim and the ground may help decrease hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature).

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Lightning may also cause other injuries such as burns, shock, and sometimes blunt trauma. Treat each of these injuries with basic first aid until help arrives. Do not move victims who are bleeding or appear to have broken bones.

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