Lightning has been the second greatest cause of storm-related deaths in the U.S. for the last 40 years, exceeded only by floods.
A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest and death at the time of the injury. However, some victims die a few days later, having suffered irreversible brain damage. Only about 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90 percent with varying degrees of disability.
That's why experts say when storms threaten, get to a safe place, stay there longer than you think you need to, stay away from windows and doors and avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity, including a landline telephone.
Lightning causes injuries to the nervous system and may affect the brain, autonomic nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. When the brain is affected, the person often has difficulty with short-term memory, multitasking, distractibility, irritability, personality change, as well as coding new information and accessing old information.
Early on, survivors may complain of intense headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and other post-concussion types of symptoms. Survivors may also experience difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively at first and then only two or three hours at a time. A few may develop seizure-like symptoms several weeks to months after the injury.