Humans and Animals With Wet Skin Have Higher Survival Rate When Exposed To Lightning, Study Says

A recent study shows that humans, just like animals, have a higher chance of survival from exposure to lightning with wet skin.

Lightning can happen during thunderstorms, and in the event that a cloud strikes the ground, discharges could have currents greater than 200 kA1.

Water Protective Layering

During a thunderstorm, people and animals who are outside run the risk of being hit by lightning.

A direct lightning strike accounts for around 5% of all lightning-related injuries to humans, whereas side flashes account for about 30% (step and contact voltage or upward streamers produce the remainder of the injuries).

It is evident that lightning victims who had head burns died more frequently from cardiac arrest, most likely as a result of problems with their nerve systems.

Researchers conducted an experiment using 3D models of human heads that suggests being wet may lessen the amount of damage caused by a direct lightning strike.

The study’s first author, René Machts of Germany’s Ilmenau University of Technology, asserts that it is preferable to be outside in the open with wet skin as opposed to dry. This occurs as a result of the water’s protective layering. Finding a safe spot and shrinking as much as you can are still safer options.

In a new publication in Scientific Reports, Machts and colleagues report that previous theoretical investigations have suggested that moisture on the skin may lessen the amount of current that passes through the body in the event of a lightning strike.

Additionally, research suggests that animals with wet skin are more likely to survive a lightning strike.

It was still unclear how a person’s wet head from standing in a thunderstorm-which frequently includes rain-would affect the force of a lightning strike.

Read Also: 2 Giraffes Die After Being Struck by Lightning! Does Their Height Put Them at Risk?

Electrical Characteristic

To explore the issue, the team created two human head models by simulating the electrical characteristics of the brain, skull, and scalp with three layers of a gelatinous material containing different concentrations of sodium chloride, carbon black, or graphite.

Subsequently, the scientists affixed electrodes to every stratum as well as the structure containing the models. While one figure was kept dry, the other was doused with a substance that looked like rain. The models were then put inside a chamber and exposed to ten actual lightning strike simulations.

The results show that a current passes through both model heads’ “scalp” upon a lightning strike, resulting in a flashover. However, compared to the dry head, the wet head showed lower specific energy (32.5% less) in the brain compartment and lower average electrical current (12.5% less) in the brain layer prior to the flashover.

This could be the reason behind the greater survival rate of wet animals in earlier studies.

The team also notes that following the lightning strike, the wet head displayed fewer indications of damage, such as scalp perforations or fractures. However, they claim that more research is required.

“Based on these results we plan to create further head models to quantify the effect of [for example] headgear and may investigate material for an optimal headgear to further reduce the current in the head,” said Machts.

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