Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Care and Lightning

Do you have a fear of thunderstorms? Many people do; it’s called astraphobia—the fear of thunder and lightning. Astraphobia can cause some symptoms that are similar to those of other phobias, as well as some that are unique. Sweating, shaking and crying may occur during a thunderstorm or even just before one begins. You may seek constant reassurance during the storm. Symptoms are often heightened when you are alone, according to this website:  http://phobias.about.com/od/phobiaslist/a/astraphobia.htm .

Additionally, many people with astraphobia seek shelter beyond normal protection from the storm. For example, you may hide under the covers or even under the bed. You may go to the basement, an inside room (such as a bathroom) or even a closet. You may close the curtains and attempt to block out the sounds of the storm.

Another fairly common symptom is obsession with weather forecasts. You may find yourself glued to the Weather Channel during the rainy season or tracking storms online. You may develop an inability to go about activities outside your home without first checking the weather reports. In extreme cases, astraphobia can eventually lead to agoraphobia, or fear of leaving your home.
However, the chances of getting struck by lightning are remote, according to the National Geographic Society. The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Lightning is a giant discharge of electricity accompanied by a brilliant flash of light and a loud crack of thunder. The spark can reach over five miles (eight kilometers) in length, raise the temperature of the air by as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (27,700 degrees Celsius), and contain a hundred million electrical volts. Plus, it can happen at any time of the year, even in snowstorms.

Lightning can kill people. Over 4,000 people in the US have been killed by lightning since 1959. Lightning can also cause cardiac arrest. Injuries range from severe burns and permanent brain damage to memory loss and personality change. About 10 percent of lightning-stroke victims are killed, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects. About 400 people survive lightning strikes in the U.S. each year.  Much more info about this topic can be found at this website: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0623_040623_lightningfacts.html .

How do you get struck by lightning? Initially this seems like a fairly straightforward question, according to this website: http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/struck-by-lightning.htm . As it turns out, there are several ways a person can be struck by lightning, and the type of strike dictates the impact it can have on your body.

--Direct strike - a cloud-to-ground lightning strike hits you or something you're holding, like a golf club, dead-on instead of reaching the ground.
--Side flash - lightning strikes something close to where you are standing and then jumps from that to you.

--Contact potential - while you're touching something, like a fence-post or a tree, lighting strikes that object and the current travels from the object through the point of contact into your body.
--Step voltage - you're sitting with your feet together in front of you, knees up and rump settled on the ground near a spot where a cloud-to-ground lightning strike hits. As the lighting current disperses, it travels through your body by entering one point, say your joined feet, and exiting another, your rear end.

--Surge voltage - while you're using some type of electrical appliance or a telephone, lighting strikes the source of power or network connected to the device and you receive a shock.
The worst kind of lightning experience is a direct strike - statistically, it's the most fatal. Being hit by a side flash or through contact potential are the next in the level of severity, with step voltage third and surge voltage last. Basically, the amount of current and voltage going through your body lessens with each of these types of strikes. If you're a victim of a direct strike, the full impact of the lightning courses through your body. In the other scenarios, the intensity is lessened because some of the energy is dispersed elsewhere. The circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems are most commonly affected when a person is struck by lightning:

--Circulatory: Reportedly, the majority of fatalities resulting from direct strikes are due to cardiac arrest. Ironically, were someone nearby with an automatic external defibrillator, to administer another electric shock to the heart, the victim might survive.
--Respiratory: The greatest threat to the respiratory system is paralysis. Artificial respiration is required so the victim won't die from lack of oxygen.

--Nervous: When the central nervous system is affected, a number of side effects can occur such as dementia, amnesia, temporary paralysis, impaired reflexes, memory gaps and anxiety or depression.
According to the National Weather Service, and as seen at this website: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/, here are some tips to stay safe from lightning:

What You Need to Know
·         NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
·         If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
·         When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
·         Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
Indoor Lightning Safety

·         Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
·         Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
·         Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
·         Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.
Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips

·         If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:
·         Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
·         Never lie flat on the ground
·         Never shelter under an isolated tree
·         Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
·         Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
·         Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)
Lightning is dangerous, no matter when or where. Make sure you practice extreme safety when you could be caught in a situation where lightning may be present. Although you may never be struck by lightning, don’t put yourself in a position where you may be the next story on the six o’clock news because you did get struck.

Until next time.

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