Health Watch -- Lightning Storms

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

We humans may save our fireworks for July, but Mother Nature likes to put on a show in springtime.

One sure sign of spring is thunderstorms, often violent and severe. Lightning often comes with these storms, and while it's quite rare for people to be struck by lightning, it's important to take precautions.

The best thing you can do in a thunderstorm is to stay put. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say the safest places to be in a storm are buildings equipped with lightning rods and enclosed cars. While indoors, avoid using the telephone or electrical appliances. These can conduct electricity, so you could get a jolt if lightning strikes.

If you are caught outside when a storm hits, stay away from tall objects that can conduct electricity, like trees, flagpoles or fences. Lightning tends to be drawn toward the tallest object in an area, so you don't want to be close to that object or be that object yourself. Crouch in a ditch or any other low-lying area. Experts at UT Southwestern say to make sure any ditch you find to lie in is a dry one because water on the ground can also conduct electricity.

As scary as being struck by lightning sounds, it's not necessarily fatal. In fact, two-thirds of the people who get struck by lightning survive. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions when storms brew.