Cast with a graphite fishing rod from an aluminum boat, and you could very well catch the big one--a jolt from above. Nearly 1,500 people are hit by lightning every year. Most of the 150 to 300 fatalities are caused by cardiac and respiratory arrest.
Lightning cuts loose at a speed of one-hundredth to one-thousandth of a second, with a charge of 50 million to 2 billion volts. Chances of dodging a thunderbolt are slim, so stay clear.
If you're indoors when a lightning storm hits, stay off the phone and away from metal window frames and storm doors. If you're driving, stay inside the car. Outdoors, avoid shelters that stand in the open. Find low ground. Shun single trees. Do not lie flat on the ground. Instead, squat, clasp hands around knees, feet together, touching. That way, if a bolt strikes the ground, the current will leapfrog over your feet and dive back into the ground. Later, folks will be thunderstruck when you tell them about the time you played footsie with lightning.
Briefly . . .
Some medications--such as antihistamines, diet pills, amphetamines and antidepressants--can increase risk of heat exhaustion . . . The American Assn. for World Health estimates that for every dollar spent on fluoridating water, $50 worth of dental treatment is prevented . . . Updated information on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is available in 13 languages at (800) 232-4955, and (800) 232-4957 for TDD users . . . Aggressive toothbrushing is the No. 1 cause of gum recession, so the Academy of General Dentistry advises cleaning with a soft bristle held with thumb and index finger in a pen grip . . . Adolescent boys who suffer a sports-related injury to the testicles may have permanent hormonal change resulting in infertility later on, says University of Wisconsin Medical School . . . Call (800) 222-2225 for a free brochure on the pneumonia vaccination recommended for people older than 65 and those with heart or lung disease, diabetes, HIV or AIDS.
* This health roundup appears in Life & Style on Tuesdays.