Lightning or Electric shock

Injury by lightning occurs after exposure to a millisecond electrical discharge at very high temperatures.
It can occur because someone is directly struck by lightning, although in almost all cases this leads to death.

Indirect lightning injury occurs when a person touches or is near to an object in which lightning has just struck. This causes electricity transmission.

Possible physical problems after lightning strike or an electric shock

  • Heart attack or irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Loss of consciousness to coma
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Eye injuries like cataract
  • Temporary paralysis legs / feet are blue
  • Impairment in sensory perception for example stinging, burning sensation (paraesthesia)
  • Skin burns (branching, dotted or striped pattern)
  • Injury caused by the impact
  • Internal bleeding
  • Amnesia of events before the accident (retrograde amnesia)
  • Cognitive problems, confusion, slowed thinking, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory of recent events
  • Personality change (sometimes)

When a person gets an electric shock this can cause damage in various parts of the body. Research has shown that resistance to the flow of electric current is lower in neural tissue than in other organs of the body. If the person survives resuscitation it may also happen that brain damage is caused by oxygen deficiency.

When the damage starts in the spinal cord this may cause softening of the spinal cord by which, for example, paralysis may develop.

When the damage begins in the brains, the gray matter may be affected. Gray matter is the exterior of the brains, and is made up of cell bodies of the neurons. It is the cortex of the large brains and the little brains (cerebellum). Gray matter in the spinal cord is located on the inside.
A stroke can occur because of the irregular heartbeat and clot formation (embolism).

It may be that after an electric shock the patient is unconscious and has memory loss.
It may also be that the consequences do not occur until after some time.
Complaints are reminiscent of Parkinson's disease (parkinsonism) or disturbances in the little brains (cerebellar disorders), diseases of the spinal cord (myelopathy), inadequate functioning of muscles (spinal muscular atrophy), or a disorder of the nerves in the arms or legs that can give sensation problems and problems with movement (sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy).
The effects vary from person affected.

The treatment is initially focused on cardiac rehabilitation. Brain injury rehabilitation will be picked up later and will be tailored to the symptoms.

Preventing a lightning strike

  • Avoid contact with water
  • Do not use computers / phones / wired audio headphones
  • Switch off electric equipment before the storm erupts
  • Keep away from windows and doors


  • Avoid high-altitude areas such as hills, mountains
  • Avoid open fields, farmland
  • Avoid metal objects
  • Do not hide under an isolated tree
  • Keep a distance of at least five meters from others


Read the story of Sabrina who has braininjury caused by an electric shock