Q: What happens if I get struck by lightning?

A: Most fatalities resulting from lightning strikes occur during July, followed closely by August and June - not surprising, as in these months, the weather allows for much more outdoor activity. In fact, those most prone to being struck by lightning are younger and more physically fit - those more likely to engage in outdoor sports. Males, as well as those living in rural areas, are also more likely to be struck.

That said, injuries and deaths from lightning strikes aren't limited to the outdoors: about a third of strikes occur indoors when lightning travels through appliances such as telephones, TVs, radios, and even plumbing.

The release of electricity and heat resulting from lightning can cause singed hair and first- and second-degree burns. Other non-life-threatening injuries include ruptured eardrums due to the high air pressure produced during a strike, and cataracts, which have been observed in the eyes of about half of all lightning-strike survivors.

In addition, unique formations called Lichtenburg figures, fern-like patterns on the skin, appear just after a person is struck and usually disappear over several hours.

Overall, deaths due to lightning strikes are rare. Most fatalities occur when the direct current from the lightning injures the electrical conduction system of the heart, resulting in irregular beating. This can ultimately stop the heart. The central nervous system is also a target; the electrical current can cause bleeding in various areas of the brain and spinal cord, resulting in death.

It is a good idea to check weather forecasts before engaging in any outdoor activity. Get indoors as soon as you hear thunder. And, once indoors, avoid things like running water, corded phones, electrical equipment and doors, windows, and porches during storms.