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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

SILVA, L M A; COOPER, M A; BLUMENTHAL, R  and  PLISKIN, N. A follow-up study of a large group of children struck by lightning. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2016, vol.106, n.9, pp.929-932. ISSN 2078-5135.  http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/samj.2016.v106i9.10564.

BACKGROUND: On 11 November 1994, 26 preadolescent girls, 2 adult supervisors and 7 dogs were sleeping in a tent in rural South Africa when the tent was struck by lightning. Four of the girls and 4 of the dogs were killed. The 2 adults were unharmed, but all but 3 of the children suffered significant injuries. An article in 2002 detailed the event and examined the medical and psychological changes in the surviving girls. OBJECTIVE: To understand the medical and psychological changes secondary to lightning strike years after injury. METHODS: An online questionnaire was prepared that included a checklist of physical and psychological symptoms. Participants were asked to report on both initial and current symptoms. Eleven of the 22 survivors were contacted, and 10 completed the survey. RESULTS: Participants reported that initial physical symptoms generally resolved over time, with ~10 - 20% continuing to experience physical symptoms. Vision problems persisted in 50% of respondents. Psychological symptoms, overall, had a later onset and were more likely to be chronic or currently experienced. Depression and anxiety, specifically, were higher among the survivors than the reported incidence in South Africa. CONCLUSIONS: Initial and current/chronic physical and psychological symptoms following lightning strike are reported, adding to the body of literature on the long-term after-effects of lightning strike on survivors. A brief discussion on post-traumatic stress disorder symptomatology and post-lightning shock syndrome is provided.

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