What exactly happens to your body when it’s struck by lightning?

May ends with a succession of , as we have to make up for the dry season of the last few months.

May ends with a succession of thunderstorms, as we have to make up for the dry season of recent months. Stumbling across one of these is a stroke of (in much of the country, rain seems to be a thing of the past). But it can also be a danger.

Suddenly, the sun shines and a layer of clouds covers the entire sky, thunder rumbles, the air rises and the dreaded lightning strikes. Whether we fear thunderstorms or not, we must recognize that their spectacular nature is due precisely to the threat posed by the lightning that emerges from the clouds with them: it generates an electromagnetic impulse of enormous voltage, giving rise to unparalleled sound and visual effects. That's why buildings and power grids need lightning conductors and systems to survive. But what about people?

Despite all the protection systems invented to date, lightning continues to cause injury and death around the world. From an early age, we hear fantastic stories about it, a natural phenomenon that has given rise to all sorts of “unnatural”. What actually happens to your body when lightning strikes it is quite different.

Damage forever

With a power of 300 kilovolts, lightning can heat the air up to 27,000 degrees Celsius (impossible to imagine). This combination of energy and heat can cause severe damage to the human body. A lightning strike can cause burns, ruptured eardrums, eye damage, cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest. While around 10% of lightning victims die, many of the 90% who survive are left with after-effects.

Just as the electricity transmitted can reach very different levels, so too can the injuries it causes: from minor burns to brain damage or even death, it all depends on chance. While the trajectory of a thunderstorm is predictable, that of a lightning strike is not.

If a person is struck by lightning, the impact can cause cardiac arrest, preventing blood from circulating through the body. As a result, the brain and entire nervous system can be affected. Electric shocks can also cause cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.

Different forms of impact

As ThoughtCo reminds uswhile around 10% of lightning victims die, 90% survive, many with lasting complications, as some injuries can last forever. For example, people who suffer a muscle injury as a result of a lightning strike are at risk of developing rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which a person's muscles begin to degrade. This breakdown leads to an influx of toxic proteins into the bloodstream, causing kidney damage.

It's worth remembering, as obvious as it may seem, that tissue would be the first to be affected, with more or less deep burns assured. All these possibilities depend on the position you are in when lightning strikes you. The following forms of impact can be distinguished:

Direct strike: this is the least frequent, unless you're in the middle of the field, but also the most deadly. A direct strike occurs when lightning strikes a person's body unhindered. In this case, the current passes through the body.

Collateral lightning is the type of lightning strike on a person that occurs when the person tries to take cover, for example under a tree.

Side lightning: when lightning strikes an object close to a person and part of the current passes from the former to the latter. Of course, for this to happen, the person must be only a few meters away from the struck object. This is the type of shock that occurs when a person tries to take shelter under a tree, for example.

Telluric current: when the impact occurs on an object, part of the current may pass through the object and along the ground until it reaches a distant person. Interestingly, this type of impact is responsible for most lightning-related deaths and injuries.

Driving: Most indoor lightning strikes result from this curious movement. It occurs when lightning passes through conductive objects, such as metal wires or pipes, but also doors, windows and objects connected to the current, until it strikes a person. While it's true that metal doesn't attract lightning, it is a good conductor of electric current.

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