August 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Summer in Maine!  What do you think about? The list could include picnics, swimming, boating, family reunions at camp, and many other outdoor activities. Does your list include thunderstorms and lightning safety? If you hear thunder you are in danger of becoming a lightning victim. Lightning is one of the top three storm related killers in the United States. Lightning injures more people than it kills and many victims have life-long health problems. The United   States averages fifty four lightning deaths per year. About ten percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed. Ninety percent are left with various kinds of disabilities.

Lightening is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and the ground. Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the major factors that control where lightening will strike. Thunder is the sound made by a flash of lightning and can be heard as far as ten miles away from a lightning strike. Lightning can strike an object as far as ten to fifteen miles away from a thunderstorm. There is NO safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. WHEN THUNDER ROARS, GO INDOORS!

A safe shelter from lightning is in an enclosed building or in an enclosed metal vehicle like a car, truck, or bus. Unsafe buildings include open garages, beach pavilions, tents, baseball dugouts, sheds, and greenhouses. Unsafe vehicles include golf carts, convertibles, and motorcycles. Metal does not attract lightning but does conduct it so remember not to lean on car doors if you are in a vehicle.

If you are not able to get to a vehicle or a building during a thunderstorm, avoid open fields, avoid hilltops, get out of the water, try to find a ravine or other low area and stay away from tall trees or other tall objects. If you are caught in your boat, stay inside the cabin and avoid all metal objects. If you are in a small boat, drop anchor and get as low as possible in the boat.

Lightning enters a building by direct strike, through wires or plumbing, and through the ground. If you are in a building, stay off corded phones, don’t touch electrical equipment or cords, avoid plumbing, and stay away from windows and doors. Try to unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives. Please do not forget to bring your pets inside!

A lightning strike can result in cardiac arrest. Lightning victims ARE safe to touch. The human body does not store electricity. Call 911 and give first aid and CPR. Lightning victims may experience intense headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, personality changes, forgetfulness, ringing in the ears, and slow reaction times. Delayed symptoms can include seizure like activity and depression.

When you hear thunder, run to a safe building or vehicle. Stay inside until thirty minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder. Remember, you are not safe anywhere outdoors.

For more information visit www.nws.noaa.gov, www.lightning-strike.org, or www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.