Skip to Main Content


Lightning causes approximately 1000 injuries each year in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of weather-related death, with approximately 100 reported deaths each year.1,2


Reported mortality rates vary from approximately 0.5 per million in the general U.S. population to as high as 8.8 per million in the rural South African population.3 Lightning injury reporting is biased toward the more severe and fatal events, and it is estimated that many unreported lightning injuries occur each year, perhaps up to several thousand cases. Approximately 70% to 90% of persons struck by lightning survive, but as many as three quarters of these survivors have permanent sequelae.4,5 Livestock and other animals also experience deaths and injuries from lightning.


Lightning most often occurs during thunderstorms in association with large cumulonimbus clouds. However, approximately 10% of lightning occurs without rain and when the sky is blue.6 In addition, lightning can occur during dust storms, sandstorms, tornados, hurricanes, snowstorms, and nuclear explosions, and in the clouds over volcanic eruptions.


Lightning injuries can occur while riding in airplanes (both private and commercial) and engaging in water sports. Lightning injury associated with indoor telephone use during lightning storms has been reported. A study in Australia identified up to 80 such injuries yearly without any reported fatalities.7


Even though lightning is electrical energy, lightning injuries differ substantially from high-voltage electrical injuries seen in association with human-generated sources. There are differences in injury patterns, injury severity, and emergency treatment3,8,9 (Table 213-1).

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 213-1 Comparison of Lightning and Electrical Injuries 

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessMedicine Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessMedicine content and resources including more than 250 examination and procedural videos, patient safety modules, an extensive drug database, Q&A, Case Files, and more.

$995 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessMedicine

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.