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Lightning Injuries

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

Lightning injuries occur when a person gets struck by lightning. Lightning produces an electric current that can pass through your body and damage nerves and organs.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

A Foley catheter

is a tube put into your bladder to drain urine into a bag. Keep the bag below your waist. This will prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection or other problems. Also, keep the tube free of kinks so the urine will drain properly. Do not pull on the catheter. This can cause pain and bleeding, and may cause the catheter to come out.

Intake and output

may be measured. Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

A pulse oximeter

is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.

Medicines:

  • Alkalinizing medicine: These medicines help decrease high amounts of acid in your blood and urine caused by muscle injury.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Diuretics: These medicines decrease swelling in your body. You may urinate more often when you take diuretics.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever can cause serious problems if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach. Tell healthcare providers if you have any of these medical conditions before you receive the medicine.
  • Other medicines: You may need to take medicine to treat other medical problems caused by lightning. These problems may include low blood pressure, seizures, or problems with your heart, kidneys, or muscles.

Tests:

  • Blood and urine tests: Samples of your blood and urine are tested for signs of organ damage.
  • X-rays: Healthcare providers use x-rays to check for damage to your bones.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray uses a computer to take pictures of your head or other parts of your body. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell healthcare providers if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. You may also be allergic to the dye.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your body. Your healthcare provider may use this test to check for damage to your brain or other parts of your body. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell healthcare providers if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. You may also be allergic to the dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything made of metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell healthcare providers if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • ECG: This is also called an EKG. An ECG is done to check for damage or problems in your heart. A short period of electrical activity in your heart is recorded.
  • Blood gases may be checked if you are having trouble breathing. Blood is taken from an artery, usually in the wrist. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell healthcare providers how well your lungs are working.
  • A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. A provider will check how your pupils react to light. The provider may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

Treatment:

  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe easier. It may be given through a plastic mask over your mouth and nose. It may be given through a nasal cannula, or prongs, instead of a mask. A nasal cannula is a pair of short, thin tubes that rest just inside your nose.
  • Ventilator: This is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. A tube is put into your airway through your mouth, nose, or an incision in your neck. The ventilator gives you oxygen through the tube.
  • Surgery, wound care, and other procedures: Surgery and other treatment may be needed if you have burns, wounds, or other injuries.
  • Therapy may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to build strength, endurance, and balance. The exercises can also help reduce pain. An occupational therapist teaches you new ways to do things around the house or at work. A speech therapist helps you learn to talk or swallow more easily.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

RISKS:

Even with treatment, you may still have long-term problems caused by lightning injury. These problems may include memory problems, vision problems, or movement problems. Without treatment, the problems caused by lightning injury may worsen or become permanent.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.